Before becoming a Teaching Assistant, I was a Teacher Aide in the early 1980’s in the Special Education Department at Newburgh Free Academy. I worked very closely with Donald Davis who taught Math and English. Mr. Davis’ course outline included teaching fractions in his math classes. He wanted to make this course fun to learn so he came up with the idea of using a chocolate chip cookie recipe as a teaching tool for his classes.
The students followed the directions with the help from both Mr. Davis and me. Each ingredient was measured according to the recipe. When the batter was complete the cookies were baked and they were given as a treat to the students. This behavior modification was instant gratification for the student and the demand for cookies multiplied. Mr. Davis’ class, with the permission of the school’s administrators, began baking double the amounts and selling them for $1 during Home Room. Some of the proceeds from the sales replenished our supplies. The students bagged six and one half cookies, this was now the inception of baker’s half dozen. A student artist drew our logo on each bag. It was the letter “B” in baker’s characterized as a baker.
Students made the cookie batter at the end of the day for the next morning’s bakers. The following day during first, second and third periods, students signed in and the batter was spooned onto trays and baked. There was a change of bakers with each period. Under the direction of Mr. Davis and I, ingredients were increased to try to keep up with our orders. No matter how many bags were prepared, there was just never enough to satisfy the demand! There were days that 40 bags of cookies were sold.
The students in our “Cookie Program” as it was later named, felt a sense of pride and self worth especially when members of the faculty/staff would call and place an order for an upcoming event. At the end of each month, students were rewarded with a gift. As the end of the year approached the students were treated to a luncheon. The Principal and Director of Special Education were invited. Each student was given a Certificate of Achievement by the principal. At each luncheon, the Director of Special Education and our Principal praised the students and the program.
The Cookie Program went on for many years after its inception. The students not only learned fractions through baking but they were introduced to the working world. They were taught the work ethics which they hopefully took with them when they completed school. This was a very positive learning experience for our students in many ways. As a retiree, I look back on those days with a smile. I was very proud to be part of such an innovative program established by Mr. Don Davis.
Years later, Mike Craft became the teacher in charge of the Cookie Program. I worked with Mike for many years and like Mr. Davis, he brought so much to this wonderful program. His humor and dedication to the students was evident in their performance. The format stayed the same and the program continued to be a success. Students either graduated or aged out and other students took their places. It was an honor for students to be part of the Cookie Program. Unfortunately, like many programs, this program ended after 9 years. On another sad note, Mr. Craft passed away suddenly not too long after the program ended.
To this day, I meet former students who were in The Cookie Program and they tell me how happy they were to be in the program. It was truly a wonderful experience for me and for many students.
(Sally Clinton is a retired member of Newburgh Teachers Association/Teaching Assistant Chapter)