Teaching Life Skills in the Kitchen: Q&A with Connolly Culinary Arts Teacher
Christina Hoover is in her second year as Culinary Arts Teacher at Connolly Middle School. She has quickly fallen in love with the role, and enjoys teaching life skills through the kitchen and the art of cooking. Her students speak highly of her, and several students have taken the skills they’ve learned and used them to prepare food for their families.
Enjoy this Q&A with Christina and join us in thanking her for the way she is impacting our students!
1. Tell us about your classes. What sort of things are students doing in class? How are they learning life skills?
Students are learning how to cook from scratch. This includes learning how to read labels when grocery shopping, the language of cooking and how to read a recipe, how to measure liquid/wet ingredients and dry ingredients, how to broil and bake in the ovens, and use their stove top, too. All classes work together in groups of five to six students. They are cooking, washing, rinsing, and drying dishes. After finishing a project, they sweep and empty the trash as a way of finishing their project. I also teach them kitchen and home safety, because so many home accidents can be prevented in the kitchen.
This year they will recreate the "Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Toast" recipe. They will learn to scramble eggs and then make the Pioneer Woman's toast at the same time. They also bake coffee cake and a variety of cookies.
My seventh- and eighth-grade classes also do more advanced cooking from scratch. This year, they made appetizers from scratch, which was followed by a tasting where they all got to try the appetizers. Appetizers included: seasoned oyster crackers, a hot spinach/cheese dip, roasted red pepper hummus, and a Mexican corn and bean dip. They also have baked a variety of scones, learned how to make flour tortillas, and quesadillas and breakfast burritos. After Thanksgiving, we are looking forward to making soups from scratch.
2. Culinary arts seems like such a great class for middle schoolers. For some students more than others, it may be helpful that they can be out of a traditional classroom setting and learn in a different way. What benefits do you believe that culinary arts bring to our students?
I think that through culinary arts, all my students get to apply what they are learning in their English, math, and science classes. They are learning about nutrition and food borne illnesses and how cleanliness and good food safety practices keep them healthy.
I also have PALS students that come in with an aide and they are able to cook and make projects successfully. Even our students who are in wheelchairs can hold a bowl in their laps and stir and feel like they are contributing to the group project!
3. What do you love most about your job?
I really enjoy teaching life skills. I love when a student comes back to school and tells me that that they took a recipe home that I gave them and that they made it for their family. I also get a lot of pleasure in seeing my students successfully make a project and then enjoy eating it after. They are very proud of their accomplishments, and I am very proud of them!
4. What's your favorite thing that the students make?
My favorite thing that students have made this year is the roasted red pepper hummus. It was so good and so easy to make from scratch!
5. What is your most memorable moment you've had since becoming a culinary arts teacher?
Last year I had a group of students that got their cookies in the oven too late and had to leave when the bell rang. I told them that I would take their cookies out of the oven, and I forgot and burned them. I felt so bad that I mixed up a new batch, and when I baked them they came out runny and thin. I saved that batch and showed all my classes the next day what I had done, and told them that you cannot bake distracted and that even the teacher can make mistakes! I ended up baking a new batch and was able to give the students something to eat.
6. Any other fun facts that you would like to share?
I love to cook and truly love to teach middle schoolers. I have been married 36 years to Greg Hoover, who works as the computer teacher at Curry Elementary. We have three grown children, and they are all great cooks! I am also a grandparent and of course, my granddaughter Ellie who is four-years-old, loves to help her mom and nana cook!
Thank you to Christina for teaching life skills to our students through culinary arts!