When a student senses the connection between their work and the meaning it has for their future, the chance of success is always greater.
For the students at Whittier High School, the connection exists between not only the work the students are doing but it can be found between the students and staff at the school.
“We are an academic recovery school,” Director Martin White said Monday morning. “One of the main reasons our students are successful is because of the connection between the students and our staff.
“Respect is a two-way street and our students know that the teachers here care about them and their success. They respect the students and the students do the same for the staff, ” he added. “Our teachers teach them real life skills to help them plan and prepare for their future.”
That was evident Monday morning in Mark Johnson’s foods class as five of his students were busy in the kitchen at the school preparing baked goods for the West Central School Quality Meeting, hosted by the district Tuesday.
“We’ve only got two days to make 300 dessert items for the meeting,” Johnson said Monday morning. “But I know my kids, they will be able to get it done.
“Some of the students came in at 8 a.m. (Monday) morning to work on the snickerdoodle muffins,” he added. “We needed the added time, but it was a way for some of my students to make up some class time they had missed. I think it says a lot for their commitment that they were willing to come in in the morning help get this project done.”
That belief in the students is something that the students recognize and appreciate.
“I think one of the best things about the class is that we all work together,” Kelsey Bearce, a junior in the class, said. “If we have a question we always have a partner we can ask and we have Mr. Johnson too.”
With a menu consisting of many specialty desserts including white chocolate strawberry cookies, Oreo cookie cheesecake, strawberry lemonade cookies, cake batter mini cheesecakes and the traditional mini cherry cheesecakes and possibly Rice Krispie Treats, as well as the snickerdoodle muffins, the students were hard at work trying to accomplish as much as they could in one of the two class periods they had to work on the project.
“I always try to mix it up and give the kids something new and different to try,” Johnson said. “This is only the second year we’ve had a foods class but a think it’s a great one for the kids to have.
“Some of these kids come in here and they don’t know how to break an egg, but with some of the others the challenge is to break them of some of the bad habits they have picked up in other kitchens,” he added with a laugh. “It’s all really fun, especially watching them learn and make something they are proud of after they have made it.”
The students are not the only ones who are pleased with their cooking, according to Johnson.
“Last year when the school board had their meeting here we thought it would be nice if the kids made snacks for them to enjoy that evening,” Johnson explained. “The board liked them so much that they asked if we would continue to do it.
“It can be hard with the meetings on Mondays but we’ve been able to do it,” he added. “It can be a big undertaking though with only one oven but we get it done.”
Superintendent Brad Pollitt said the Board appreciated the efforts of the students.
“The board and I really enjoy the food that the students from Whittier prepare for us each month,” Pollitt said. “I know we really appreciate it and it’s really nice that they are willing to continue to do this for us.”
Junior Brittney Greer has enjoyed the class so much she is planning to take the class again for a second eight-week session.
“We love eating what we make, especially if it’s something that we like,” Paredes said. “But what we learn, especially learning from our mistakes, is really important too.”
The students learn from their time in the classroom but there are other teachable moments as well.
“Part of what the students learn in the class is the planning and preparation that it takes to plan a meal,” White said. “We take the kids to a local grocery store and they have to purchase all the things they will need to make an item or meal with the budget we give them — those are the types of skills they will need later on in life.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.