Learning job skills in and out of the classroom: Huntley bakery makes space for local student

Blessed Little Kitchen surprised employee Teagan Haniszewski with a new counter

Teagan Haniszewski pulls apart twist ties at Blessed Little Kitchen in Huntley

Customers who visit Blessed Little Kitchen in Huntley around lunchtime Wednesdays may be greeted by Teagan Haniszewski.

Haniszewski, a senior at Huntley High School, works one day a week at the bakery. Her tasks at the bakery include greeting customers and organizing twist ties.

Haniszewski sits in a wheelchair, and the shelves under the counter kept her from getting close to the counter surface.

In October, owner Mary Holzkopf surprised Haniszewski with a new counter without shelving.

Holzkopf said that the bakery works with Haniszewski on fine motor skills, and changed the counter for Hanizsewski so she could get closer.

Teagan Haniszewski sits behind the counter at Blessed Little Kitchen in Huntley. The counter has no shelves so Haniszewski can sit closer to the counter.

“I want her skills to advance,” Holzkopf said.

Haniszewski’s mother, Carly Worthington, said Haniszewski was surprised with the new counter.

“She had no clue it was coming,” Worthington said.

“I’m like, ‘What?’” Haniszewski recalled after seeing her new counter for the first time.

Worthington said Holzkopf had asked her for measurements, but didn’t know about the counter project until it was unveiled.

Haniszewski said she interned for Blessed Little Kitchen for a year before Holzkopf hired her permanently.

Worthington said she used Holzkopf’s bakery for Teagan’s birthday a few years ago, and Holzkopf brought all the necessary baking ingredients to the house, and Teagan “fell in love with the bakery.”

Holzkopf said Haniszewski has connected with customers, some of whom try to visit her at work when they can. She said one customer will call the bakery if they can’t visit Haniszewski at work.

In addition to her role at the bakery, Haniszewski participates in a job skills program at Huntley High, where she helps to make candles with classmates and friends. She said they currently are making winter-scented candles such as gingerbread.

“The candle business was originally started in 2018 by a previous job skills teacher. The idea was to start a business where the students could express their creativity while also practicing job skills to prepare them for life after high school,” Cole Popenhagen, the job skills teacher at Huntley High, wrote in an email.

Popenhagen added that Haniszewski began participating in the candle-making program in the 2021-22 school year, and she volunteers to sell candles to fellow students and staff during the school day and to Huntley community members on weekends.

After Haniszewski graduates in the spring, she said she hopes to get into the bakery business.

“She would work at Blessed Kitchen for the rest of her life,” Worthington said.

Holzkopf said Haniszewski is “just amazing.”

“She is wanted and loved and cared for.”