For THE NEWS
A Menomonie High School teacher has been named 2009 National Teacher of the Year for Secondary-School Food Science Program by the American Association of Family and Consumer Science (AAFCS).
Presented to Susan Turgeson, CFCS, the award recognizes exemplary teachers who utilize cutting-edge methods, techniques and activities to provide the stimulus for and give visibility to family and consumer sciences elementary and secondary education.
“It is a tremendous personal honor to be recognized by my profession, but this award also recognizes the support I have received from my school district and community,” Turgeson said. “I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to develop and implement this program utilizing many partnerships.
“This award has extra special meaning to me this year as AAFCS celebrates its 100th anniversary,” she continued. “Its founder, Ellen S. Richards, was a pioneer in the field of food science over a century ago, and I am humbled to be a part of her legacy.”
Thinking like a scientist
In 2001, Turgeson implemented her award-winning food science course for 10th through 12th grade students to stimulate their interest in science, increase the number of females studying in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, address the need for food science professionals, and integrate core academics with the family and consumer sciences curriculum.
Aligned with state standards in science and language arts, as well as with state and national FCS standards, the course utilizes a variety of innovative teaching methods and engaging activities to help students understand science concepts.
For example, Turgeson encourages students to think like a scientist when they participate in a decoding lab where all recipes are converted to Wingding symbols from a Word document. Students use information they already have, like basic measuring knowledge, kitchen equipment, and ingredient information, and apply that to what they have been given to create new information.
During her carbohydrate unit, the concept of crystallization is enhanced by making candies and working with food styling and photography. Turgeson uses a segment of the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to help students identify food science principles related to candy making, such as food safety/sanitation, preparation techniques, research and development, and proprietary rights. She also uses books, including “Twinkie, Deconstructed” and “What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained” to spark the inquisitive minds of her students.
Out and about
Turgeson’s course is designed to take students outside of the classroom for enriching food-related experiences as well. She has developed a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Food and Nutrition Department so that students can observe college courses in food science, meet and interact with professors and students, see commercial equipment, and learn about the latest research from graduate students.
She also takes students on field trips to places like the Le Cordon Bleu, the Art Institute of America, Tucci Bennuch, and the Chanhassen Dinner Theater to see the culinary applications and go behind the scenes with food and beverage directors.
Turgeson brings the outside world to the classroom with guest speakers from companies like Con- Agra Foods who help students understand different food science career pathways.
For her cutting-edge program, Turgeson uses Moodle, an online software program that allows her to upload documents, provide links to websites and videos, and communicate efficiently with her students. She uses it to supplement her course now and may use it as a distance education tool in the future. With this in mind, she is developing PowerPoint and video versions of her lab experiments.
Close to 400 students — 50 percent male and 50 percent female — have taken Turgeson’s course and learned the concepts of food science. After completing her course, students have gone on to take advanced science courses in high school, been more confident about their abilities, pursued post-secondary education in a food science-related field, and become involved in the food science competitive events in either Science Olympiad or the National FFA Organization.
“She helps us to teach ourselves by not giving us the answers, but helping us to find them,” said Brianna Passofaro, one of Turgeson’s students. “Making sure that each day is a productive day, we do a variety of different activities — from cooking in the kitchens, to learning about the food and culture of other countries around the world, to guest speakers. Each day of a class with Mrs. Turgeson is fun and full of excitement.”
Turgeson is a member of AAFCS as well as the Wisconsin Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Wisconsin Family and Consumer Educators, the FCS Education Advisory Committee at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, the Stout Community Association of Career and Technical Education, and various teams and committees for the School District of the Menomonie Area.
Prior to receiving the AAFCS National Teacher of the Year award, she was honored with the Wisconsin Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher of the Year award, AAFCS New Achievers award, and Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year award. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
About the award
Each AAFCS affiliate selects its Teacher of the Year and the winning affiliate entries are submitted to AAFCS for the national competition. From the Affiliate Teachers of the Year, up to three merit finalists and one National Teacher of the Year are selected.
The National Teacher of the Year is selected based upon the following criteria: integration of FCS with the core academics and educational standards; exemplary level of professional commitment to FCS; goals and outcomes of the program; sustainability of the program; creativity, innovation, and progressive techniques in the program; ability to sustain funding and overcome obstacles or challenges; positive influence on the lives of students; relevancy and timely impact on the students, school, and community; and increasing the visibility, recognition, and support of the FCS profession within the community.
A representative from Goodheart-Willcox Publisher will present Susan Turgeson with the AAFCS National Teacher of the Year award at the AAFCS 100th Annual Conference and Expo in Knoxville, Tenn., on June 25.