REMARKABLE TEACHING MOMENTS FROM FORMER SAN PEDRO HIGH SCHOOL CULINARY TEACHER SANDY WOOD WHO SHOWS US ALL HOW LATE A SPARK CAN INSPIRE A STUDENT
When former San Pedro High teacher, Sandy Wood, read this story during an event where she won an award, I begged her to send it to me. Sandy retired last year, leaving behind unfortunately an empty kitchen at the school where thousands of kids poured through her room. She often had hundreds of students on the waiting list to get into her classes.
While she changed the name of this student, I believed it was too important for more of us to hear and didn't want to let it slide by. It took me awhile to get her to submit it.
Here it is:
By Sandy Wood
Hector was pretty much a typical San Pedro kid. He grew up not in, but near “The Projects.” He was the oldest of several children. He was the first in his family to have the chance of graduating from high school. And his grades were not good.
Hector was big. The football team would have probably liked to have him on the team, but his grades would not have allowed that and besides, he was not interested. He looked like he could have headed toward the gangs, but he wasn’t interested in that either. In fact, he wasn’t interested in much.
When he came into my class as a senior, he was just looking at getting by, getting through. But then we started to cook.
And Hector was hooked. He now had a reason to come to school and a reason to do well. He could not get enough. He filled out an application, wrote an essay, got letters of recommendation and was accepted into a cooking competition!
He stayed after school almost every day for weeks to practice. He won a scholarship to a culinary school in New England! But leaving San Pedro was not something his family had ever considered. We talked and talked. After working for a year to earn living expenses, Hector got on a plane for the first time and headed to the other side of the country. He called me after a week or so and said, “There are no Mexicans here!” I told him, “There are now!”
Hector graduated from culinary school. He did well.
I have seen many Hectors, and Lisas, and Matthews, and Jennifers. I have seen the fire move from the stovetop into their hearts. That’s why I teach.