Leah Hoesli, Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) instructor at Chanute High School, has cooked up a recipe of success for the program. She earned the Kansas Teacher of the Year award last month from the Kansas Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences in Manhattan.
Hoesli learned that she had been nominated by her peers in December, which she described as a humbling experience. After nomination, the work began – compiling the accolades of the program and procuring letters of recommendation from administration and a student. The competitive branch of the program, the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club, has racked up a total of 46 medals in district, state and national competitions in her tenure. Two of her students recently placed 5th in the nation and CHS has brought home the district trophy for the last four years in a row. They were also awarded the State FCCLA Diamond membership in 2016 by increasing membership by 50 percent.
All of that information was then sent to the selection committee. It was during a school day in April that Hoesli learned that she was the recipient.
“I was so surprised and very humbled,” she said. “There are so many great FACS teachers, even just in southeast Kansas. I didn’t think I was worthy, but to know that they thought I was doing a good job and had done something for FACS and CTE (career and technical education) was just so awesome.”
Hoesli was so shocked about receiving the award that the students in her class were worried about what was wrong. She explained to the class what had transpired.
“They were so excited and super proud of me,” she said.
Hoesli has taught FACS exclusively for all 14 years of her career. This year will be her fifth at CHS. Last year was the inaugural year for the successful culinary arts program, serving for several functions such as the district retirement reception. Her culinary students also make take-and-bake meals every month that can be ordered by anyone in the community.
She feels that these hands-on experiences are important for her students because in addition to the cooking, they plan the menu, compile the grocery list, decorate the venue, serve the meal and of course, clean up after.
“They get to show what they have learned in the classroom,” she said. “I love to see the students that may not participate in sports or other extracurricular activities shine, and the look of accomplishment when their work is being praised by others.”
Hoesli said that enrollment for the culinary program has grown exponentially.
“It blew up; it is insane how popular it has become,” she said. “So many kids are interested and want to take the class and I want them to have the opportunity. It’s a lot of work and grocery shopping, but it’s so much fun.”
It was her own FACS teacher, Sharon Frankenbery at Fredonia High School, who inspired her to pursue the career path.
“I loved FCCLA and being in the community, traveling, the projects, and the different events,” she said.
Her favorite parts of being involved with FCCLA in school
have also become her favorite experiences with her students as a teacher.
“The Nationals trips that I have gone on with kids and seeing them outside their element,” she said. “The nerves and excitement about flying for the first time, and just experiencing so much with them for the first time. A lot of them don’t have the means to travel outside of even Chanute, so their minds are blown when we go.”
Hoesli said that she couldn’t imagine doing anything else and wants to dispel the myth of FACS being the traditional home economics class of sewing, cooking and cleaning that people often imagine.
“It is so much more than that,” she said. “They learn how to fill out a job application, write a resume, balance a checkbook. We talk about taxes. They learn how to prepare a meal, about birth and how to take care of an infant. These are life skills that they are going to use forever.”