“I teach culinary arts,” Kristin Montoya says with a smile, waiting for the typical response of “Oh! That’s Home Ec, right?” or “Oh! I wish they had a class like that on my campus!” And if the response is the latter, she’ll give you lots of ideas on how to bring the culinary arts back into the public schools.
While there is a resurgence, she’s making a Culinary Arts CTE Classroom in every school a priority. Montoya teaches the Culinary Arts program to 7th and 8th graders at Ladera Vista Jr. High School of the Arts in Fullerton. Her official title is Art, Culture & Gastronomy Teacher.
Surrounding districts still have the space, she says. They have the kitchens and the stoves; they just need the teacher and a program. “We definitely need more of them in our districts! I’m a huge advocate for students,” she said, adding the high schools her students feed into have great culinary arts programs.
“I teach math, science, language arts, history, health – you name it. I teach it. It’s a life skill class, so I’m helping students become college and career ready,” she says. “Culinary arts keeps kids in school. It gets kids up and out of their seats because everything is hands-on.”
Her projects include United States history, where students cook meals based on a geographic region. Or, she takes them back in time and they’ll make meals from different decades, using the food that was eaten then.
“It’s like eating your way through history… and across the country,” she said, adding that “students remember the history and the food. It puts on another layer of knowledge.” Her newest project involves a “Culinary Adventure” for students who are interested in going to Italy to learn about their country’s cuisine.
A past-president of the Fullerton Elementary Teachers Association (FETA), Montoya represents educators at State Council, where she chairs the Adult, Alternative, Career Technical Education Committee. Most recently, she’s been working on two separate committees for the State of California, often flying up to Sacramento for workgroups put together by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond.
Montoya has been honored for her advocacy, most recently with the Leon Owens “Impact on Education” Award. The Leon Owens Foundation provides resources to underprivileged students and schools. She has also been recognized as Teacher of the Year by the Fullerton School District, received the coveted “Golden Oak” Award by PTA, the Golden Bell Award by the California School Board Association, and was recognized by the California State Assembly as a Woman of Distinction in the area of Education.