I wanted to share my recent Walking in the Shoes experience and the time I spent with Lisa Jones, Food Services Lead Extraordinaire at Northern Heights Elementary.
My Walking in the Shoes actually began on a Monday at 3:45 pm at Shuksan Middle School, as Lisa is in charge of our nightly dinner program. As I arrived, we jumped right in to preparing dinner – beef barbeque sandwiches, tator tots, coleslaw (my first time making this!), veggies, fruit and milk. We also cooked some cheese pizza with whole wheat dough in case we had any vegetarians.
At 5 pm, dinner was ready to go and students and families started arriving. We had kids who were coming from after-school events, funded by our federal 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant that supports before/after school programming, others who came from after-school sports, as well as families who came from home to eat dinner together. I met families from all over the city, including some from other districts. The great thing about our after-dinner program is we can serve all students for free, as well as their siblings, and charge a minimal fee to adults. Dinner is funded by a federal program, so it is a real win-win for our district and community.
By 5:30 pm, I started to get real hungry…and it was tough to keep serving food, but not eating it! Luckily, Lisa was gracious and let me go mingle with the students/families and have a dinner. Don’t tell anyone, but I probably had three servings of tator tots…loved them! After 6 pm, we started the clean-up process: wiping tables, washing dishes and putting food away. Lisa was so respectful of the fact that we were guests in the Shuksan kitchen, and we left the place spotless.
Later that week, I joined Lisa at Northern Heights Elementary for a day serving breakfast and lunch.
I arrived at 7:30 am, and to my surprise, there were already tons of kids sitting in the cafeteria eating. I wondered “Where did all these kids come from?” School doesn’t start until 8:30 am, and our doors don’t usually open until after 8:00 am. Well, it was our kids whose parents work and need to drop their kids off early. Our YMCA before/afterschool program operates at 13 of our 14 elementary schools. Students are dropped off as early as 6:30 am in many of our schools. This was a real eye-opener to me, and it demonstrated the fact that our current 8:30 am start time does not work for many families. We have students throughout our city already at school ready to learn, but need to wait up to two hours until the bell rings.
Throughout the day I was able to observe the love and care that Lisa demonstrates toward her kids and the impact she makes. One of the classes wrote me a letter…here is part of what they wrote:
“Dear Dr. Baker, Thank you for coming to Northern Heights today and ‘walking in Miss Lisa’s shoes”. We think it is a good idea to spend time looking around the district to see how hard people work. We would like you to know how we appreciate the patience Miss Lisa has because sometimes kids aren’t paying attention and they forget their lunch number. We think she is a ‘thinker’ because she had to do a lot of estimating about how many lunches to serve every day and she also uses her math skills when she collects our money…We think she loves her job because she loves kids, she is always smiling…Miss Lisa always puts kids first. We hope that spending time with her will help you when you have to make food decisions for schools. Thank you for hiring Miss Lisa!!!”
Enough said. Throughout day, as we made breakfast and lunch, helped kindergartners enter their lunch numbers, washed dishes, rotated milk, called in meal counts…it was so apparent that this was more than just a job. Lisa is an example of so many of our staff throughout the district…who work hard because they love kids and want the very best for them.
The Bellingham Promise is alive and well in the kitchens and cafeterias throughout our district! Thank you Lisa, and thanks to everyone on staff, our families and our students for living The Promise every day.