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GCHS teacher given state honors

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By Camille McClanahan

The Family and Consumer Science program at Grant County High School is not your mother’s home economics class’ of days gone by.

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Anna Day Sullinger, Family and Consumer Science teacher at GCHS, was named the Outstanding New Career and Technical Teacher of Kentucky. Sullinger was given the award at the summer conference of the Kentucky Association for Career and Technical Education (KACTE) on July 19.

“Ms. Sullinger is the greatest teacher ever,” said culinary student Taryn Biddle. “She is always there when we need her, in or out of school. In foods, we have to demonstrate a lot, and Ms. Sullinger is always right there to show us, if we have any questions. She is also in charge of the FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) and I joined this year actually, just because she was the head of it.”

Originally from Maysville, she began her career at GCHS and is entering her fifth year of teaching. After being offered six jobs, Sullinger chose Grant County.

“When I was interviewing, I looked at all the departments,” Sullinger said. “I felt a really good atmosphere when I was here, and I just felt like this was home.”

Sullinger was first chosen from all the Kentucky Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences (KATFACS) across the state and went on to win the KACTE award competing against teachers from other disciplines.

She serves as the chapter advisor for the GCHS  FCCLA. This year Sullinger teaches foods and nutrition and culinary skills, but classes are on a rotating basis and she alternates class schedules with her colleague, Pat Conrad, who was this year’s Grant County Teacher of the Year.

“I was inspired by my Family and Consumer Science teacher,” Sullinger said. “When I was in high school I was very active in my FCCLA, and I knew that I wanted to provide the same positive experiences for future students that my teacher had provided for me. My mom was a teacher and she also inspired me to go into to this. It is something that she is very passionate about as well. And there are many teachers in my family.”

Sullinger said that she enjoys teaching all of the classes in her department, but right now her favorite is her culinary class. This summer she attended classes for a week at Johnson and Wales Culinary School to update her skills.

The greatest challenge she faces is funding the level of activities that she wants for her students.

“Our programs tend to be expensive,” Sullinger said. “Sometimes you want the best and sometimes there is just not enough money to have the best. That’s probably the biggest challenge in teaching for our particular program.”

Unlike home economics classes, which mainly focused on teaching girls to be housewives and mothers, Sullinger said that today’s studies are much broader.

“We try to steer our students toward employability,” Sullinger said. “We know that the Family and Consumer Sciences, obviously a lot of these things will help you out in your family, but we are a  part of the human services career cluster. We have the dietetics field or fashion and interior design, we have fashion merchandising.”

At GCHS, students have the option to be career majors, taking life skills, advanced foods and nutrition and culinary classes and can test at the end of the year for for a culinary career major, if they pass the exam with an A, there are universities that will give them college credit for their work. When students go into the workplace, often manager’s will start them at a higher wage because they already have had the sanitation, safety and other training, Sullinger said.

“We are very driven toward that post secondary training, and if you’re not going to fulfill a postsecondary role, then we want you ready to enter the workforce.”

According to Sullinger, one of her most gratifying moments came when a former student, who is a junior now, came up to her and told her that the job interviewing skills and life skills that she taught her helped her get her job. The student came to her job interview at LaRosa’s dressed in business attire with a resume and cover letter in hand. They expressed to the student that this was not the norm and they were impressed with her preparation for the interview.

In her culinary class, students are required to do culinary career research, keep a career notebook, practice completing job applications, writing resumes and cover letters. After they are graded, the work serves as a tool for scholarships and the real world job market.

“We have really changed our focus,” Sullinger said. “Our student organization, the primary focus of the FCCLA is to improve the focus of the family. If you look out today, so many of our problems in our society start with the dysfunction of the family. We still have a main focus in doing that, but also when we’re successful in our careers, and we make successful choices in life, we also tend to have successful families. I love to see students succeed in whatever it is they want to do.”

Sullinger is married to Andrew Sullinger and they live in Lexington. She received her Family and Consumer Science Education degree from the University of Kentucky and received her masters degree from Eastern Kentucky University. Sullinger will automatically be entered in the National Association for Career and Technical Education teacher’s competition.