Each day, Cafeteria Manager Rebecca Shaw’s staff makes lunch for Cloverleaf Middle School students in a kitchen not much bigger than the one many people have at home.
“There’s only one oven in there,” she said at the end of a recent school day. “We fed 270 kids today out of that one oven!”
The middle school kitchen was built a generation ago primarily as a satellite facility. Meals were cooked at the high school and sent to the middle school for serving. When Shaw became manager four years ago, she was determined to change that. Today, she and her staff of five make fresh, nutritious meals in-house, every day for middle school students and staff.
“Attitude is key. It’s not what we can’t do, but what we can do,” Shaw said. “That was my motto when I came here. We might be small, but we’re mighty!”
In recognition of her role in fostering a positive environment for student learning at Cloverleaf Middle School, Shaw has been recognized with the 2020 Support Staff of the Year Award from the Ohio Middle Level Association
. Shaw will receive the honor on May 6 at OMLA’s annual conference in Sandusky.
“I have had the pleasure of watching Becky grow and flourish during the last 11 years of her career. She’s one of those people who gives 110 percent and does whatever it takes to make the cafeteria warm and inviting for her students,” said Food and Nutrition Services Director Carrie Beegle. “Becky is a natural leader and is well respected by her staff and peers. She truly leads by example. Her enthusiasm and laugh are contagious. She is very creative and enjoys what she does -- and it shows! It was no surprise Becky won this prestigious award. She epitomizes what it means to be a food service professional driven by a compassion to give her students the best, most nutritious meals possible and delivers it with a smile and a kind word.”
Shaw learned to cook by watching her mom and her grandmother in the kitchen. She’s served Cloverleaf for 23 years -- first at the former Lodi Elementary School for 14 years and then at the high school for five years. She’s been able to follow the progress of kids she first met as young elementary school students.
“To watch the kids grow, it’s been amazing through the years,” she said. “Some of them haven’t changed -- they’ve only gotten super-sized!”
Food service staff also watch over students -- noticing if a child isn’t eating, whether it’s due to a lack of financial resources or some other reason. Shaw and her team work with the principals and school counselor to make sure students don’t go hungry.
“It’s very important that these students have nutritional meals for their learning. We don’t know what they had at home, or if this is the only nutritious meal they get,” she said. “Sometimes we just have to do our part to make sure they get something to eat.”
It can be a simple thing that makes a difference, like including pictures of menu items on the breakfast sign-up form -- something Shaw initiated this year with positive results. Food service during the COVID-19 pandemic required a whole new level of flexibility and planning to create meals students could pick up in the cafeteria and take to their classrooms.
“Becky has a passion for students. She takes the nutrition and wellness of her students personally,” said Principal Brian Madigan. “I have worked with Becky on countless occasions to ensure every student has access to healthy meals while at school. She is known for allowing students to test new foods and provide feedback about what they would like to have served for breakfast and lunch.”
Shaw appreciates the acknowledgement that comes with the OMLA award, but she’s quick to share the credit with her staff and the entire Cloverleaf Middle School team. She’s grateful for the opportunity to do something as meaningful as feeding kids every day.
“I love my job,” she said. “I don’t really consider it a job. I just enjoy it.”