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Innovative Educator: Caldwell teacher 'brewing up' interest in English literature

Andi Arnold believes there is a connection between coffee shops and learning.

CALDWELL, Idaho — Just about every coffee shop you walk into, you’re bound to find at least one person working away on a laptop or reading a book. One English teacher at Caldwell High School thinks there’s a connection between coffee shops and brain power, and she’s brewing up a “latte” interest in literature by teaching in her coffee house inspired classroom.

Andi Arnold likes to greet her students before class starts, and then she welcomes them into her classroom.

"You have two minutes,” Arnold says, “Get your tea, get your coffee, pick your seat, let's go."

Caldwell High Principal, Anita Wilson, is also supportive of Arnold’s non-traditional classroom. "She has couches, kitchen tables, bean bags, sofa, love seat,” says Wilson.

English and literature studies might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but in this class you can sip a “cup of Joe” while learning about Bill… Shakespeare.

"Learning doesn't need to be as linear as we make it, right?” asks Arnold. “It can be whatever we need it to be as individuals, and that's kind of what I am trying."

The flexible seating plan isn’t what you’d normally see in a classroom.

"I want to split us up into sections and like call us things, like ‘zones,’” says Arnold to her class, “I want this to be like the living room? And you guys will be the kitchen, you're the dining room."

"You can choose wherever you want to sit. They're not assigned,” says senior Xochilth Herrera.

"I thought, if I could just give them a comfortable place to relax, and somewhere that they felt safe, maybe I could do more," Arnold explains.

Because students can choose their perfect seat, Arnold says they aren’t tardy as often. "They get here on time so they can claim their spot,” she says.

She dims the florescent lights, adds some easy listening, and with mug in hand, the students “steep” in literature.

"It's just that... the whole ambiance of it. What does it mean to be in a coffeehouse? But I'm bringing that to a classroom so that they feel like, "oh!" says Arnold.

"It's kind of like a study session if you were to go after school, or go to Starbucks because that's what I would do,” Herrera says, “But you can just do it here, while you're in class."

"I just feel more at home. Like I can open up to people around me,” says senior Isabella Toledo. "I would love for my kids to come back next year and say, 'I've done so much studying at the Flying M,' or 'I've gone to the Starbucks all the time because I feel safer there,'" says Arnold.

Andi Arnold is this week’s innovative educator.

Almost everything in Arnold’s classroom, including a cupboard full of mugs, the couches, chairs and tables, was either thrifted or gifted to her classroom. She’s also gotten several donations of beverage supplies; from coffee and hot chocolate, to creamer and honey. Arnold says it’s because of the generous donations that she can keep her coffee club flowing.

If you’d like to nominate a teacher as an “Innovative Educator,” you can email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.

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