By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
When Nancy Gates began teaching home economics decades ago, most if not all of her students were girls. The focus of the food classes was on cooking.
Today, Gates — an Anderson High School culinary and wellness and nutrition teacher in Family and Consumer Sciences (it’s no longer home ec) — said she has more boys in her class than girls and much of the focus is on nutrition, budgeting for food and making good choices.
One of her favorite recipes — golden cream soup — is a part of her classes; it teaches several lessons. Many students have never peeled, chopped or cubed vegetables. Some have never understood the importance of following a recipe or the terms used in cooking.
“When I introduce the recipe to students a lot of them see all those veggies in it and say, ‘I don’t know about that,’” Gates said laughing. “But when they taste it they really do seem to enjoy it.”
With this recipe students learn measuring techniques by making and thickening a sauce with flour and cheese, simmering and constantly stirring.
“It is important when you are thickening a sauce that you cook it at a low temperature and stir constantly so it doesn’t scorch,” Gates said. “And if you want to make a lower calorie version you can use skim milk instead of whole and use low-fat cheese in place of the Velveeta.”
Gates, originally from Minnesota, began her teaching career about 40 years ago at Madison Heights Junior High; she’s always been in home ec. She has been at Anderson High for three years and also taught at North Side and South Side middle schools. Gates received a masters in vocational home economics education from Ball State University.
“I did 4-H for 10 years and really enjoyed presenting food at a lot of state fairs,” she said. “That’s why I pursued that in college because I enjoyed doing those things so much.“
Gates enjoys the growing focus on wellness and nutrition at the high school.
“So many students are responsible for doing some cooking at home and at the high school level they are getting to the age where they are soon going to be independent,“ she said. “I think it is important for them to have the cooking and consumer skills to make wise choices with their food budgets. Some of them already have children and others will have families so I hope they can pass the skills they learn on to keep their family healthy.“
The courses incorporate an all-encompassing picture into education, not just cooking, techniques and terms. Students learn how to read food labels, prepare things from scratch, budget, using small appliances and nutrition and wellness.
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