WaveCrest Heroes: Teresa Sharp

December 10th, 2018

Our team at WaveCrest Cafe is fantastic. Not only do they serve hundreds of meals in a short amount of time, but they make our cafeterias friendly, safe and welcoming spaces for all of our students. There are many stories from across the district about our team and how they engage with students,and so we set out to find these stories and share them with you.

Today’s story comes from our Lead at Breeze Hill Elementary School, Teresa Sharp. Teresa not only manages our WaveCrest team at Breeze Hill, but she is always attentive to how students are feeling and behaving each day. As she says, “I’m not just here to feed them, I’m here to make their days better.”

Toward the beginning of the school year Teresa observed a student, a first-grader with special ed help, who was often distraught and in tears when coming to lunch. She tried a number of things to calm the student, and spoke with the special ed aide who accompanied the student throughout the day. Teresa often hands out smiley face stickers to students as a means of spreading good cheer during meal times. She had given this student the stickers on occasion but his crying continued.

“I’m not just here to feed them, I’m here to make their days better.”

One afternoon at a store she saw something that she thought might help with the situation. She made a purchase with her own money, and the next day at school, as the student approached, tears in his eyes, She said, “hi kiddo. I have something special for you, and they’re only for you.” She pulled out a sheet of food-themed stickers. Hamburgers, ice cream, pizza and other foods were covered with metallic sparkles and googly eyes. “These are magic stickers,” said Teresa. “Really?” asked the student. “Yes,” said Teresa, “and they’ll only work for you. They won’t work for anyone else – they are designed just for you. They’ll make you stop crying.”

Teresa Sharp and Gino: a magical friendship.

The student paused and regarded what she had said, and Teresa continued. “Do you want to try it?” She then explains, “I let him pick the one he wanted and as soon as he put it on he stopped crying. He paused for a second and put on this big, giant smile, because I told him the magic sticker would give him a smile.”

Teresa continues her story. “The next day he came through the line, and there were no tears. I said, ‘what’s going on, kiddo?’ And he said, ‘Your stickers are magic.’ That was the end of the crying. And he stopped getting the stickers because he said, ‘they worked.’”

After that, Teresa noticed that the student’s aide was having a difficult time getting the student to walk from class to the cafeteria during a crowded lunch time. She says, “One day I saw him running from class, which he’s not supposed to do. So I said, ‘do you remember the magic stickers?’ and he said yes. And I said, “I have something else for you, it’s the walking sticker. If you have walking feet I’m going to give you one of these stickers.’ He said OK and I gave him a sticker. And the next day he started to run, and he saw me at the window and he stopped and he waved at me, gave me a big smile and he started walking to me. He said, ‘I’m walking today!’

“I don’t give him stickers anymore, but when he comes up to me at the window he stops and puts on that big smile.”

Teresa Sharp and her booklet of magical stickers.

The student’s special ed aide, Maria, has nothing but praise for Teresa and her thoughtfulness in making the child’s day better. “Teresa is so good with him, and with all of our students. She’s very thoughtful about helping them to have a good day. And with this student, he’s been doing great!”

Teresa said that she joked with Maria when Maria once said, “I’ve given him a hundred stickers and none of them worked.” And I said, “well, yours wasn’t magic!”

One other example of how Teresa Sharp excels at creating a great environment: one day she noticed a student who had been having a number of disciplinary issues scowling and seemingly having a bad day. She gave the student a friendly greeting in the morning. When the student came through the line at lunch he was friendly to her, smiling and polite to her and other students. She made a point to thank him and encourage him to continue to exhibit his good manners and respect for those around him. “He got the biggest smile,” she said. “And seemed so grateful that someone was encouraging him. Little things like that can change a kid’s day.”

It’s all part of how Teresa views her job. She knows that mealtimes are special in that they are a break from the other structure of the day, and sometimes the cafeteria is the place where students are most able to let down their guards. She says, “If I can do something to make a bright spot in the day, with all that these kids can go through, if I can ease whatever it is for just a second and give them just a little bit of happiness in their day…”

That means that in addition to all of the operational responsibilities she has in feeding lots of kids in a short window of time, she’s attentive to who they are and what they may be feeling or experiencing. Says Teresa, “You build relationships with them. We see kids from a young age and get to know them. If I don’t have time when I’m running the line then I’ll go meet them at the tables. Just the fact that they know that someone cares is a big deal.”