Teacher funds Iron Chef-style initiative with $500 AZEdNews Classroom Grant - AZEdNews
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Teacher funds Iron Chef-style initiative with $500 AZEdNews Classroom Grant


Mesquite Junior High School Teacher Vanessa McGee Talks With Students As They Prepare Their Meal. Photo By Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

Vanessa McGee, a teacher at Mesquite Junior High School in Gilbert Unified School District, will use the AZEdNews Classroom Grant to buy ingredients and supplies for her 8th grade students enrolled in the Life Skills course for an end-of-quarter Iron Chef initiative.

The first semester of the course is dedicated to culinary arts, and the Iron Chef program “will allow students to think outside of the box, allowing them to use their critical thinking skills and creativity,” McGee said.

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Mesquite Junior High School Principal Kari Ramirez presents teacher Vanessa McGee with the AZEdNews Classroom Grant. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

The AZEdNews Classroom Grant provides $500 for teachers’ initiatives to enhance classroom learning for their students thanks to a partnership with The Brand Agency, a full-service marketing agency based in Mesa that works with many different school districts and companies across the U.S. doing print, web, and media advertisement. Two grants are awarded each quarter.

AZEdNews video: Vanessa McGee awarded AZEdNews Classroom Grant for Iron Chef-style initiative

Video voiceover and editing by Renée Romo/ AZEdNews

“First, I would like to thank you so much for choosing me and selecting me,” McGee said. “What we’re going to do with this grant is to buy more supplies for my students.”

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Vanessa McGee

“We are extremely happy to be partnering with AZEdNews on these grants and look forward to helping more teachers fund projects for their students,” said Chris Macomber, CEO of The Brand Agency.

“Chefs, four minutes to mise en place,” McGee said, after handing students the recipe they would be preparing.

Groups of students checked the recipe, collected pots and utensils they needed, and prepared ingredients for their pasta alfredo with chicken meal.

“Water’s boiling,” said one student.

“Look at the chicken,” said another student.

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Mesquite Junior High School Teacher Vanessa McGee asks students questions as they prepare their meal. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

As the students prepared the meal, McGee walked around to each group checking on where they were at, giving helpful instruction, and plenty of encouragement.

“This is a Title I school, so every little bit helps,” McGee said. “Our district does, of course, provide some things, but then there’s those extra things that I like doing with the children.”

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Mesquite Junior High School Teacher Vanessa McGee answers students questions as they prepare their meal. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

For example, the students took part in a Cupcake Wars contest, “and I was able to give lunch passes, but I would like to be able to give just a little bit extra for them,” McGee said.

“She did Cupcake Wars last week, and that was something special. That was fun,” said Kari Ramirez, principal of Mesquite Junior High School.

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Mesquite Junior High School Teacher Vanessa McGee checks on student’s progress making their meal. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

As each group finished up, one student set the table for their group to enjoy their lunch, while others cleaned their work areas.

Then, one student brought a plated meal up to McGee who asked questions, offered insight, and congratulated them on their good work.

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Mesquite Junior High School Teacher Vanessa McGee tastes and discusses the plated meal with a student chef. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

“Students are typically given one recipe and expected to make that one recipe,” McGee said.

“By establishing the Iron Chef program, I’m giving students the opportunity to think outside of the basics. They will be able to not only follow a recipe but create recipes establishing real life skills that go beyond this class,” McGee said.

When students were done cooking, they enjoyed their meal together.

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Students in the Life Skills class taught by AZEdNews Classroom Grant Vanessa McGee eat the meal they just prepared. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

“My district‘s priority is excellence. Each year I strive to instill excellence and encourage excellence in my students by having them go above and beyond the given lesson,” McGee said. “Currently, I am able to teach them the fundamentals, and help them dream of doing more.”

“In the spirit of excellence, the Iron Chef program will allow the students to go above and beyond the standard, set a precedent for excellence in all they do, and set the students on a culinary arts pathway,” McGee said.

Click here to apply for the AZEdNews Classroom Grant!

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Mesquite Junior High School Teacher Vanessa McGee and students in her Life Skills class with a sign about AZEdNews Classroom Grants. By Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews