|The Co-op Pantry|
Judy Brown has no shortage of accolades in her life as an education professional, but she said one of the greatest honors she has received was being asked this year to deliver the Commencement Address at her alma mater, Vina High School in Franklin County.
"It was just so neat to be there," said Brown.
And since being named the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) 2008 Teacher of the Year, Brown has been speaking to groups across the state and nation about the importance of career-tech education.
"As the ACTE spokesperson for 2008, it’s an honor to have so many opportunities to speak to people about career and technical education opportunities, to let them know what’s really good about these programs and what’s going on in Alabama," remarked Brown.
While she now works for the state Department of Education, Brown says her award was based on her last year of teaching at Bob Jones High School, where she planned and created the Bob Jones Culinary Arts Academy.
"It became one of the school’s most popular areas of study and there is such a need for career-tech education. Every student will not go to college and there is a demand for skilled labor in Alabama," said Brown.
As part of her work as an educator in Family and Consumer Sciences, Brown became a certified chef, but her love of cooking began in her mother’s kitchen when she was a young girl.
"There were four daughters and a baby brother in the family and we all had a rotation of chores, and cooking was part of that. My sisters would trade chores with me during their cooking weeks. I’ve just always had a passion for cooking and baking in particular," Brown recalled.
"I was probably six or seven when I started cooking and I remember pulling a stool up to the stove so I could see. Mother always told people my first catered event was a baby shower I made tea cakes for when I was nine, and she said my tea cakes were what she missed most when I moved off," she added.
After marrying her husband Bob, who retired a few years ago from the Air Force, Judy learned a lot about food by moving around as part of a military family.
"It was my first exposure to food outside of traditional Southern specialties and it was a good way to learn about different cultures and their foods," said Judy.
While her fondness for foods is part of what drives her to continue working with teachers to build and improve culinary arts programs across the state, Judy’s dual-residence lifestyle doesn’t leave her with much time for cooking in her own kitchen.
"While my home is in Madison, I live in Prattville during the work-week. It’s hard to cook for one and I miss cooking. But the family expects a full meal when I get home for the weekend," she said.
Many of the recipes Judy shared this month come from her years of teaching Family and Consumer Sciences.
"We made Toasted Spiced Pumpkin Seeds every fall during the season and we used the Banana Slush Punch and Sausage Bites for catering special events. And the Bama Balls are always a hit. We used them for a fundraiser once and made over $2,000 in just a few weeks of selling them," stated Judy.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.