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On Becoming A Culinary Instructor

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In 2005 I was a working chef in Pennsylvania and I literally worked 360 days out of the year. I was pulling 84 hour weeks largely because I kept having to work double shifts and/or because I was called in on my days off. The final straw for me came after I was called in during what would have been my annual one week vacation. 

 

I thought about making a change ... but instead of finding another job in the industry, I went into teaching. There were districts in Arizona who were looking for Culinary Arts teachers and although one route towards teacher certification involved following the traditional path, going to college, and earning your degree; Arizona also had an alternate path which accepted work related experience. 

 

I got a provisional teaching certificate and later earned a standard certificate simply by taking a U.S. History Course, an AZ Constitution Course, and 2 graduate level classes for ESL (English as a Second Language). It helped that I had already had a Bachelor's degree. 

 

I spent 6 years teaching Culinary Arts at various high schools in Arizona ... but when the economy went kablooey back in 2007, the state education budget was slammed and districts began closing "non-essential" programs. I lost three teaching jobs due to budget cuts and finally decided to leave Arizona and move to Nevada.

 

I've now been in Nevada for three years. I work for the Clark County School District and this district hires a LOT of Culinary Arts instructors, many of them with experience on the Strip. The pay rate is much better than it was in Arizona  

 

If you're fortunate enough to work in the greater Vegas area, the district's office for Career and Technical Education offers a lot of support that I didn't have in Arizona for class management, how to write lesson plans through the use of Curriculum Engine, how to record attendance and grades via Infinite Campus.

 

Insofar as I was already certified (or certifiable) when I moved over the state line, I only needed to take a course in school law and the NV Constitution. I had three years to do this and am now applying for my standard certificate.

 

For those of you who are tired of working long hours with double shifts on weekends and holidays, teaching is a great line of work. I get four days off for Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas, a week for Spring Break (which started when the bell rang at 2:34 PM this very day) and of course there's a two MONTH paid summer vacation. There's also usually one day off per month for holidays like Labor Day, the County Fair, and MLK Day.

 

I was thinking about getting some teaching experience prior to moving on to employment with a post secondary school ... but I LIKE what I do. Although I'm in a rural area and my class is sometimes taken as an elective, the skills students learn in Culinary Arts are important. When students work in the kitchen producing products from standardized recipes, they're constantly applying food safety and sanitation. They're following the Culinary Arts dress code with regards to removing rings and bracelets, donning hair restraints, washing hands, and wearing close toed non-skid shoes. By working together in cooperative learning groups, they're learning how to part of a productive team, how to communicate, and in some cases, how to resolve interpersonal conflict with co-workers.

 

Even if these students never go on to work in the food service industry, many of the employment skills they have learned will have broad applications ... how to apply for a job, how to write a resume and cover letter, how to interview, how to work with others etc. Knowing how to keep a kitchen clean, how to safely handle food, how to use kitchen tools and equipment, and how to store food using FIFO and proper date/label procedures are also really useful skills. 

 

To those of you who are looking for a change, I'd say "C'mon in, the water's fine!"

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