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Woodland High School selected as a National Model of Excellence as the Culinary Arts capture the minds of Woodland students
Woodland High School selected as a National Model of Excellence as the Culinary Arts capture the minds of Woodland students
Woodland Public Schools
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

In the past few weeks, Woodland High School was selected as a SkillsUSA National Model of Excellence; Woodland Middle School’s food services staff helped an eighth grader cook a recipe for the entire school; and Woodland Intermediate School students competed in the annual Future Chefs of America competition.

Woodland High School selected as a SkillsUSA National Model of Excellence from more than 17,000 chapters.

Woodland High School’s SkillsUSA program was selected as one of only 24 Models of Excellence from the organization’s more than 17,000 school chapters nationwide. Models of Excellence chapters are selected based on the demonstration of the intentional learning of personal, workplace, and technical skills outlined in the SkillsUSA Framework for Student Development.

In June, two finalists from Woodland High School’s team will travel to Kentucky where they will participate in on- and off-camera interviews, attend an awards dinner at the Kentucky Derby Museum, and be recognized at an awards ceremony in front of an audience of more than 16,000 students, instructors and business leaders.

“The National Model of Excellence is one of the highest awards bestowed on chapters by SkillsUSA which is among the largest student organizations for Career and Technical Education,” said Timothy W. Lawrence, Executive Director for SkillsUSA. “These select chapters define excellence across the board, serving as models for other chapters to emulate to strengthen their local programs.”

Kimberly Miller, a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher and coach for the SkillsUSA team at Woodland High School, stresses the hard work of her team’s students as the reason for their success. “We always ask for feedback from the judges at SkillsUSA events so we can improve year-over-year,” Kim explained. “One of our returning teammates brought a lot of experience which really helped the team win; I’m so pumped and so excited for their success!”

Woodland High School’s SkillsUSA chapter will receive a grant of up to $4,000 from the program’s sponsor, Lowe’s Home Improvement. You can find out more about the SkillsUSA program by visiting their website at www.skillsusa.org.

Ruth Richards, an eighth grader (left), volunteered to cook her chicken lasagna recipe for the entire school, selling out the day it was served.
Ruth Richards, an eighth grader (left), volunteered to cook her chicken lasagna recipe for the entire school, selling out the day it was served.

Woodland Middle School serves an eighth grader’s chicken lasagna.

After eating lasagna for lunch one day, Ruth Richards, an eighth grader, asked Tonya Henderson, Woodland Middle School’s lead cook, if she could bake her family’s chicken lasagna recipe for a school lunch. “I thought it was a great idea to have a student involved with lunch preparation,” said Tonya. “We’re here for the kids and we want to cook what they want to eat!”

Ruth received permission from the school to prepare her chicken lasagna with the help of the cafeteria staff. “My friends and family gave me the idea to volunteer to make this recipe for my classmates because I love cooking,” she said. “I like how much fun it is to prepare and cook food, plus it can give you career skills for when you’re older.”

The recipe was a raving success with the students, with so many students selecting it for lunch that the cafeteria ran out. “I really love serving the food we prepare,” said Tonya. “I like seeing the looks on the kids’ faces and seeing those smiles!”

Third and fourth graders competed in the annual Future Chefs of America event.
Third and fourth graders competed in the annual Future Chefs of America event.

Woodland third and fourth graders compete in the Future Chefs of America event.

Third and fourth graders from Woodland Intermediate School competed in this year’s Future Chefs of America event by making their favorite Asian Fusion cuisine. Sodexo, Woodland Public Schools’ food services partner, organizes the event each year, featuring a different theme for the foods the students prepare. “We want to teach students healthy eating habits while also showing them that preparing food can be fun,” said Laura Perry, Nutrition Services Director for Woodland Public Schools. “This year’s event was so much fun that we’re opening the event to fifth graders from the middle school next year!”

High School students taking Culinary Arts classes volunteered along with school food services employees to help each competing student prepare their meal. Students prepared enough of their recipes for attending parents and community members to sample each recipe, as well as creating a special presentation plate. Chef Dave Williams, Sodexo's Regional Chef, helped each participant select from a variety of small vegetables and herbs to highlight the colors and presentation of their dishes.

Students made a variety of recipes including Element Sason by Joshua Castellonos, a third grader; Cucumber Sushi by Treb Lawley, a fourth grader; Asian Slaw with Peanut Dressing by Valentina Wood, a third grader; and this year’s winning dish – Cauliflower Power Fried Rice with Side Kick of Sausage by Laynie Comstock, a fourth grader.

“My mom’s an art teacher, so I really like the creativity that comes from experimenting with the way food looks and tastes,” said Laynie, this year’s winner who also participated in last year’s event. “I love being in the kitchen helping to make dinners at home with my sister and parents.” Laynie received a special prize basket including cooking supplies, her own utensils, and a variety of other culinary goodies. All participating students received special chef hats and cooking smocks used during the event as souvenirs.

Kimberly Miller helps a Culinary Arts student prepare a squid for an upcoming calamari dish.
Kimberly Miller helps a Culinary Arts student prepare a squid for an upcoming calamari dish.

The Importance of Culinary Arts and Career Technical Education (CTE).

Kim Miller teaches Woodland High School’s Culinary Arts classes. She emphasizes the importance of CTE classes which provide students with both career and life skills. “There’s a shortage in all CTE fields right now, so taking courses in any CTE program can teach students skills that can lead to very successful careers,” she said. “Even if my students don’t enter the Culinary Arts as a career, we all have to eat and we should always eat beautiful, healthy, tasty food!”

Kim particularly enjoys teaching students who have never tried to cook food before taking her class. “Some of my students have gone on to become professional chefs,” she said. Kim also encourages students to try foods outside their comfort zone. “One of our class rules is that you have to try everything you cook – if you don’t try a new food, you won’t know if you like it!”

Kim offers the following tip for anyone hesitant to try new food: “Always smell the food first before trying it,” she advised. “Smell is such an important part of eating; if you find the smell of a new food appealing, you’ll likely enjoy it!”

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