With core classes such as math, science and English being taught to students their entire school career, learning something completely new is a welcome change. Before the variety and choices that high school brings, students at Ames Middle School are taught some valuable life skills by Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Carol VanWaardhuizen.
VanWaardhuizen has been teaching FCS for nearly 35 years, and was recognized last summer as state-wide educator of the year by the Iowa Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Educators. In addition to this honor, she has also co-authored a healthy holiday cookbook published by the American Heart Association and acted as dean of non-credit programming at Iowa Central Community College.
With such a long history in one area, keeping classes fun for herself and the students could grow difficult. However, VanWaardhuizen says it’s never a struggle.
“I am always trying new things, which could be perceived as a bit scattered in my focus, but all have one common goal: these activities or practices make families stronger and individuals healthier and hopefully happier.”
In addition to teaching students about nutrition, sewing, child development and financial management, VanWaardhuizen has introduced projects that put students’ skills to use in a way that benefits the less fortunate.
“Last year, students and parents, plus community volunteers were able sew and donate 135 pillowcase dresses for distribution to orphan girls in Africa as well as Central and South America,” she says. “This year students have designed, sewn and donated nearly 50 pillowcases to send to ConKerr Cancer.”
In addition, she says, a middle school garden was started so students could grow and cook with fresh food.
As with many teachers, VanWaardhuizen most enjoys seeing her students “finish college, begin careers and start their families,” but with the unique knowledge that she had a hand in their success at home, wherever their career path outside takes them.