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Westfall FCS teacher uses culture to encourage cooking | News

WILLIAMSPORT — As if she were a Disney princess herself, Jessica Yeager, a first-year family and consumer science teacher at Westfall Local School District, uses the various pavilions found at Epcot Park to help students make cooking fun.

Yeager takes her students through each one of the 11 pavilions in her classroom, which include Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, America, Italy, Germany, Norway, Mexico and China.

So far, students have already completed their Mexico and Norway experiences. In Mexico, a guest chef, student Brenda Villasenor-Rosales, who has lived in Mexico for much of her life, helped teach the students how to make homemade tortillas and shared the differences between her homeland and the U.S.

Norway’s lessons involved learning how to preserve food without a refrigerator. Some of the other lessons include Italy and making sauce, Germany and making pretzels, Japan and making candy, then talking about presentation and pairings from France. Students also will learn how to roll sushi in another lesson, and how to cook different vegetables and grains during the Morocco lesson.

“For Mexico, I thought we could learn knife skills from making fresh pico de gallo, street corn and things of those nature,” she said.

When it comes to the student instructor, Villasenor-Rosales, Yeager said she cooked by feel and sight, which is another way to do it.

“We focus a lot on recipes in class so that cooking isn’t always about recipe,” she said. “Sometimes, you have to throw things together and see how it turns out. [Villasenior-Roslaes] did it all by feel and by sight. The other students were engaged and asked a lot of questions. It was a lot of fun for them.”

Students also will learn how to roll sushi in a lesson about China, and how to cook different vegetables and grains during the Morocco lesson.

Yeager, who has a background in sports administration prior to getting her teaching certificate, started in the district as a paraprofessional before moving into this role.

“As I sat in the classroom, I thought that this is something I can do,” she said. “With some encouraging of teachers and administrators, I got my teaching license last year.

Yeager said her goal with the different lessons is to teach the kids some things they can do at home and get them comfortable in the kitchen.

“A lot of these kids, I don’t know that they’ve ever spent time in the kitchen and the only way to learn is to get in there,” she said.

“At least once every week and a half, they’re thrown in there and we work our way through it. You can see even just nine weeks in, they’ve figured things out in the kitchen that they don’t have to ask, and in addition to that, they’re learning this is the knife I need to use and it’ll definitely continue in the home. I don’t teach restaurant-style cooking to them; I teach home cooking to them.”

In addition, Yeager said she teaches a college and career readiness element.

“I spend a week teaching them what you can cook in a microwave and how to cook in a mug so you can eat more than just fast food when you’re away from your parents,” she said.