Introducing a new world to students: Meet School Lunch Hero Allison Sobieck

Make sure to order shirts to celebrate School Lunch Heroes by April 12! School Lunch Hero Day (May 4) showcases the difference school nutrition professionals make for every child who comes through the cafeteria. It’s a great time to say thank you to those hard-working professionals who provide food education and experiences in your school.

When she left her hometown of Somerset, Kentucky, in 1998 to get her degree, School Lunch Hero Allison Sobieck always thought she would have a job offering five-star dining experiences.

After earning an associate’s in culinary arts and a bachelor’s in business with an emphasis on hospitality management from Sullivan University, Allison and her husband, Chuck, returned to Somerset to bring everything they learned to their community. They started construction on the Doolin House Inn bed and breakfast in 2003 and launched 2Chefs Catering, plating beautiful meals and introducing new food culture to downtown Somerset. (Photo above by KSD: Chuck and Allison Sobieck in their kitchen at the Doolin House Inn in Somerset, where they also operated 2Chefs Catering.)

But everything changed as their family grew, and Allison and Chuck made a decision when they learned they were having their third child to disband their catering business and sell the inn. When one of Allison’s former employees started managing the lunchroom at Somerset Christian School (where the Sobiecks’ children attend) and needed someone to assist, Allison jumped right in — and has not regretted the move.

Though the audience is different (SCS prepares meals for 150-200 students per day), the food experience she works to create for students is still five-star — and the reward much greater.

“I love, love, love my job,” Allison said. “Every day I feel as if I am doing the most worthwhile cooking job I could possibly be doing.”

We asked Allison to share her appreciation for food education and some of her experiences as a School Lunch Hero:

Q: Why did you choose this career path? What about culinary arts is special or rewarding to you?

A: I chose culinary arts because I have a great love of food, and honestly, a not-so-great love of sitting in a classroom. I loved running around a restaurant, but I always had a lazy bone when it came to studying. I was always a creative, artsy kid. Food opens the doors of the world and culture to a person. If you have an adventurous palate, you can travel the world without leaving home. Working with students is so rewarding. I get nearly giddy when I see a child try a new food and like it. It’s stunning to me how little “real” food kids have eaten!

Q: How long have you been working in the SCS cafeteria? How did you get started there? Describe your position and responsibilities (for example, if you’re involved in creating menus, management, etc.).

I started working in the SCS kitchen in October 2016. Our children have gone to school there since preschool, so I have always been around. When I became pregnant with our third child and disbanded the Doolin House/2Chefs crew, one of my former employees (and SCS graduate) went on to run the kitchen at SCS. When her assistant quit, I jumped in to the position and the rest is history. She’s like a younger sister to me. She’s self taught and quite young, but very talented. And she does the hard part, which is staying under budget! For the day-to-day, we do what needs done at the time (there is more of an “order of operations” in our kitchen than there are specific duties). And though I am simply an employee (not management), I definitely help make the menus. That’s the fun part!

Q: What is the most unique/memorable meal you’ve prepared for students/staff while you’ve been at SCS?

The SCS cafeteria offered this homemade meal during mission week: Chicken tikka masala, cucumber raita, naan and mango ice cream.

Being a Christian school, we have one school week per year dedicated to missions, both at home and around the world. We prepare international foods from places our missionaries live and serve. We have prepared meals from the Philippines, China, Africa, the Middle East, etc. The students get a lot of exposure to different foods. We recently prepared a “Taste of the USA” menu, where students were treated to Kentucky Hot Browns, Georgia Peach Pie — it was a huge hit! In two weeks we are preparing a food “tour” of Western Europe. We will serve Greek, French, Italian, German and Spanish cuisines. I’ll make my Italian grandmother’s homemade marinara for the chicken Parmesan.

Q: Why is food education important? What do you hope to teach students through your work in the cafeteria?

A: I think food is truly the cheapest way to educate yourself. Especially now, with our opportunity to locally purchase particular cuts of meat or exotic spices at our local grocery chain. I believe if you are a good eater and have learned social graces, no matter what your education level, you can sit with the Queen of England at dinner. It really opens the door to a whole new world. I hope that students will learn a couple of things from what we do: I hope they will learn to try a bite of something new and different, and I want them to know there is a big, delicious world outside of chicken nuggets and hot dogs!

Q: What’s the most challenging part about your job as a cafeteria team member? The most fun part?

A: The most challenging part is there are just two of us at any given time working. That keeps us hopping! And the most fun part is when we get to rock out awesome food and the kids get excited about eating it. We love it when they come in hungry and excited for what we’ve cooked.

Q: Tell us about an experience you’ve had at SCS that you’ll never forget.

A: We have loaded baked potato day every once in a while for the kids. They are giant potatoes, and we let the kids fill them with butter, cheddar, sour cream and real bacon. One of our little guys had never had a baked potato before. We talked him into trying it several times last year and by May, he was eating all the “guts” out and rolling up the skin and finishing it too! He was the cutest little guy! And it made my day to see a student enjoy something as simple as a potato.

5 unique ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

Heads up! Today, March 22, is the last day to order our Get Your Cray On shirts — perfect appreciation gifts for teachers! National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11.

My mom is a teacher.

I feel proud to type that. Though she’s now retired, once a teacher, always a teacher — she carries that badge with honor, rushing to help or advocate for many causes to support the profession even though she no longer does the day-to-day work.

Continue reading 5 unique ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

Why we should encourage children to play outdoors

Hellooooo spring. We’ve missed you.

We may not be out of the cold weather woods just yet, but today, the first official day of spring, we have license to celebrate. We can start counting down to all the fun outdoor things — Spring Break, the last day of school, opening day of the local swimming pool, SUMMER. It’s just like the late actor Robin Williams said: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”

Preach.

Continue reading Why we should encourage children to play outdoors

Back To School Safety Tips

It’s that time of year again when parents and children across the country are preparing to go back to school.

August is designated as Back-to-School Safety Month, and we want to remind motorists to be extra careful at all times.

Follow the tips below to make sure you keep your children safe while walking and biking to school:

School Zone Driving Safety Tips

  • Be on the lookout for school zone signals and ALWAYS obey the speed limits.
  • When entering a school zone, be sure to slow down and obey all traffic laws.
  • Always stop for school busses that are loading or unloading children.
  • Watch out for school crossing guards and obey their signals.
  • Be aware of and watch out for children near schools, bus stops, sidewalks, in the streets, in school parking lots, etc.
  • Never pass other vehicles while driving in a school zone.
  • Never change lanes while driving in a school zone.
  • Never make U-Turns while driving in a school zone.
  • Never text while driving in a school zone.
  • Avoid using a cell phone, unless it is completely hands-free, while driving in a school zone.
  • Unless licensed to do so, never use handicap or emergency vehicle lanes or spaces to drop off or pick up children at school.

Riding Your Bike to School

  • Check with the school to make sure your child is allowed to ride their bicycle to school. Some schools do not allow students to ride bicycles to school until they reach a specific grade.
  • Make sure your child always wears a bicycle helmet! Failure to wear one could result in a traffic citation. Furthermore, in the event of an accident, helmets reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent.
  • Obey the rules of the road; the rules are the same for all vehicles, including bicycles.
  • Always stay on the right-hand side of the road and ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Be sure your child know and uses all of the appropriate hand signals.
  • Choose the safest route between home and school and practice it with children until they can demonstrate traffic safety awareness.
  • If possible, try to ride with someone else. There is safety in numbers.

Walking to School

  • Leave early enough to arrive at school at least 10 minutes prior to the start of school.
  • Use the same route every day and never use shortcuts.
  • Go straight home after school. Do not go anywhere else without permission.
  • Always use public sidewalks and streets when walking to school.
  • Demonstrate traffic safety awareness and pick the safest route between your home and the school and practice walking it with your children.
  • Try and walk to school with other students. There is strength in numbers.
  • Teach your children to recognize and obey traffic signals, signs, and pavement markings.
  • Only cross streets at designated crosswalks, street corners and traffic controlled intersections.
  • Always look both ways before crossing the street and never enter streets from between obstacles like parked cars, shrubbery, signs, etc.
  • Always walk and never run across intersections.
  • Avoid talking to strangers. Teach your children to get distance between themselves and anyone who tries to approach or make contact with them.
  • If a stranger does approach your child, make sure they know to immediately report the incident to you or a teacher.
  • Teach your children to never get into a vehicle with anyone, even if they know them, without your permission.

Clothing and School Supplies

  • To prevent injury, backpacks should have wide straps, padding in the back and shoulders, and should not weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of a child’s body weight.
  • When placing items in a backpack, place the heavier items in first. The closer the heavier items are to a child’s back, the less strain it will cause.
  • Children should use both backpack straps and all compartments for even distribution of weight.
  • Remove drawstrings from jackets, sweatshirts, and hooded shirts to reduce the risk of strangulation injuries.
  • Art supplies in the classroom should always be child safe and non-toxic.
  • Make sure your child’s school is up-to-date on the latest recalled children’s products and toys.

School Bus Safety

  • Make habit of arriving at the bus stop at least five minutes before the scheduled arrival of the bus.
  • Make sure your child stays out of the street and avoids excessive horseplay while waiting for the school bus.
  • Be sure the bus comes to a complete stop before getting on or off.
  • When riding the bus, make sure your child understands they must remain seated and keep their head and arms inside the bus at all times.
  • Do not shout or distract the driver.
  • Do not walk in the driver’s “blind spot” – this is the area from the front of the bus to about 10 feet in front of the bus.

15 Must-Try 100th Day of School Activities

Everything from creative collections of 100, craft projects, math games, to writing projects and more!

1. Make a class list of 100 words the children can spell on their own.

2. Make art with 100 dot stickers.

3. Make a list of 100 things as a class they wish they had and 100 things they do not want.

4. Donate 100 canned goods as a class.

canned goods

5. Make monsters with 100 googly eyes.

6. Decorate crazy 100th day hats.

100th day of school hat

7. Make necklaces out of 100 fruit loops.

8. Work as a class to complete 100 acts of kindness.

9. Decorate drawings of what the students would look like at 100 years old.

10. Write about what you would do with $100.

11. Dress up as 100 years old.

12. Draw a tree using 100 thumbprints as the leaves.

13. Students bring 100 small items that fit in a quart size zip lock bag.

14. Make a “Before I’m 100” bucket list.

15. Make shapes/characters using the numbers “1”, “0” and “0”.

 

Have the best 100th day of school!!!

Tips For Reaching Students With Autism

Teaching a student with autism can be a challenge. Their learning styles are often different from those of most other students, and it may even seem that they are taking no interest in the lessons. Usually, however, this is not the case, and the student is simply overwhelmed and needs lessons tailored to the way they learn. This article contains tips for reaching your autistic students and will help you understand their needs better. Before long, teaching a student with autism will be as easy as teaching a student who does not have autism.

 

Use Simple, Concrete Language

Due to the nature of autism, people with this condition do not always understand abstractions, idioms or figures of speech. They may take your words literally and attempt to do exactly what you said. This attempt on their part and your subsequent disappointment can be very frustrating. Simple, concrete language works better as there is no wording to confuse your student.

 

Put Tasks in Sequential Order

If what you are trying to teach is complex, put your tasks in sequential order. Some people with autism have difficulty recognizing the order in which things go, so it can be a help to give them the tasks in the order they need to be accomplished. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller chunks can also be a big help. This way, the student does not get confused or overwhelmed and can more effectively focus on their work.

 

Choices

Choices can be important to any child, but especially to a student with autism. However, too many choices can be confusing. If possible, give your students with autism only two or three choices. That way you do not overwhelm them. Further, do not leave choices open-ended. You are likely to get better results by asking the student whether they would rather read or draw than by asking them what they would like to do.

 

Avoid Distractions

Some students with autism can find colorful wall displays or noise to be distracting. If you are doing a task which requires concentration, allow your student with autism access to a quiet, distraction-free area. This minimization of distraction will help your students concentrate, and will make the task much easier for them.

 

Have a Clear Routine

Children with autism do best when there is a clear daily routine and clear expectations set for them. Avoid changing this routine. If your routine must change, then be sure to warn the child that there is a change in the routine so that they have time to prepare. Changes in routine can lead to anxiety for students with autism. This anxiety can then lead to outbursts and misbehaving.

 

Teaching a student with autism may seem daunting, but it does not have to be. With some preparation and patience and the tips listed above, there will be less frustration for both you and your student. They will have an easier time learning the material, and will not get nearly so anxious. The less anxious your student is, the fewer outbursts they will have and the more smoothly the school day will go. That is something

The Importance of Teacher Appreciation Year-Round

Most people have that one teacher that they will never forget, the person who taught them to think outside the box, to believe in themselves. Many communities have Teacher Appreciation Week. Sometimes, students buy their teachers gifts for the holidays. However, those are just a few days a year events. Teacher appreciation needs to be a year-round affair. Teachers who feel that they are appreciated have higher morale. This translates into a desire to work harder to make sure that their students succeed. Beyond that, appreciated teachers are less likely to quit their jobs. Showing our teachers how vital they are also improves the classroom atmosphere for everyone.

 

Increasing Morale

A teacher’s job is never easy. They have to deal with school restrictions, restrictions on their classroom funding, and depending on the school they may even have to deal with a lack of teacher support from their superiors. All these factors can really lower a teacher’s morale, making them feel like they are in an endless struggle to do their jobs. Teachers who feel as if their job is a constant struggle are more likely to quit their jobs to move to schools in which they are better supported or to leave the profession altogether. However, teachers who feel that their contributions matter are much more likely to stay at a school even if the support from the administration is low. In short, community support for teachers is just as important as support from within the school environment itself.

 

Showing Teachers They Matter

Teachers work very hard for their students. When their colleagues, students and parents show them that they have done well, it gives the teacher concrete proof that they are not teaching into a vacuum and that their students appreciate their efforts. The support from colleagues is especially valuable. It shows teachers that their co-workers also recognize what they are doing for the children under their care, and this show of support from parents, students and co-workers is important all year round, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week. Furthermore, if a teacher has positive feedback on their performance, they can use that input to tailor their methods to better assist the students. This then gives the students a better learning experience.

 

Teacher appreciation is very important. Under-appreciated teachers are 12% more likely to transfer to schools with better support. This transfer rate leaves schools with higher poverty rates and fewer resources understaffed. Teachers in less affluent districts who are not shown  appreciation are also 10% more likely to simply leave the profession entirely. Showing teachers that they matter is an excellent way to increase their morale. Teachers who feel appreciated and supported report higher rates of satisfaction with their jobs and are therefore much more likely to stay at their current schools instead of moving to other schools or finding other professions to go into.

It is not just about morale though. Showing teachers that they actually do help students  allows them to evaluate the things that they have done that have been a benefit and then to work to improve their teaching style. Without positive feedback, teachers would never know what they needed to improve or what they are doing well. Teacher appreciation does not even have to be complicated. Just a simple note to tell that teacher who helped you so much during high school is enough, and it will make you feel good as well.