Professional Standards Training – The Road to a Successful School Year

Another school year has begun!   Menus have been planned, open positions have been filled, equipment serviced, food is ordered…. all we need is our customers!  It is hard to believe that summer is coming to an end.

It seems that I have spent my entire summer thinking about training.  The first part of my summer was focused on getting ready to attend the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference (ANC) in Atlanta, GA.  The second half of my summer was spent planning and preparing for Maine School Nutrition Association’s Annual Conference, as well as training sessions for our own staff as we prepare for the school year.  All of this training – the planning, the organizing, the collaborating, the teaching, as well as sitting in  education sessions myself, has given me a lot of time to think about training and professional standards and to consider the requirements and how to make the most of them.  

Boosting your School Nutrition Brand Pre-Con Session @ #ANC17
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
session at #ANC17

Even though I have been working in School Nutrition for 20 years, this year’s ANC in Atlanta was only my 5th time attending SNA’s Annual National Conference.  I have attending ANC the past 5 years – Kansas City, Boston, Salt Lake City &  San Antonio and this year, Atlanta.  The past two years at ANC have been different for me, because I was involved, not only as an attendee, but also as a presenter.  As a presenter, I was pushing my own limits and stepping out of my comfort zone… co-leading Pre Conference sessions, as well as teaching education sessions.  Not only was I stretching my limits by being a presenter, but I also made a conscious decision to connect & network with other school nutrition professionals from around the  country… not just from my own “neck of the woods”.

Spending so much time thinking about & attending trainings has let me to several conclusions about staff training & professional standards… and the strategies for making the most out of the trainings you & your staff attend:

1.  The Exponential Effect of training with professionals from many different districts/areas.  

    I am certain that many School Nutrition Directors opt to train their staff in house, which is likely the most economical means for meeting the Professional Standard training requirements.   However, when school nutrition professionals gather together from different areas for training, the diversity increases the learning exponentially!  Staff gain new insight, ideas & energy from other school nutrition superstars from neighboring districts, from neighboring states, from across the country!  It is so powerful to share with other school nutrition professionals – kitchen staff, cooks, managers & directors – from all across the state, or all across the country to learn that our challenges are so similar and our solutions are so varied!  In this environment, real change and progress happens!    It is well worth it to plan room in your budget to send your staff to a state school nutrition conference, or even a national conference.  The investment in your staff will lead to a more energized & engaged team.

2.  Hands on Training engages staff.  

Confucius said   ” I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand”.   Are you that kind of learner?  The kind of person who actually has to try something out & do it to actually master the task?  I sure am!  Let’s face it – school nutrition employees are not accustomed to sitting in a classroom environment & just listening!  Our days are spent running, cooking, serving & cleaning.  Hands on trainings, such as culinary boot camps are much more engaging because staff have the opportunity to learn and practice  new skills. 

Culinary Training in RSU #14

At our Maine School Nutrition Association conferences and at our trainings in our district, hands on trainings are often the trainings that receive the best feedback and highest ratings.  Our most recent staff training day included a “Very Veggie” Culinary Boot Camp, where our team divided up into 7 groups, with each group preparing 3 recipes from a particular vegetable.  We had the Corn Team, the Zucchini Team, the Carrot Team, the Cauliflower Team, the Broccoli Team, the Green Bean Team and the Squash Team!  Each team received training on knife skills & the necessary cooking methods, and at the end, we feasted on 21 different vegetable recipes!

Lots of these recipes will make an appearance this school year, either on a Try It Tuesday or as part of our regular menu.  And now, our staff is ready to go, recipes in hand!  They’ve made the recipes & sampled them.  Now they are ready to serve them to our customers, the students!

3.  Never Stop Learning, Never Stop Training!

The professional standard training requirements for staff development have given school nutrition pros an excellent opportunity to build themselves up professionally.  Choose trainings strategically – learn new skills!  Stretch & Grow!  When you… or your team… stop stretching and growing, chances are good that your business will also stop growing.  

If you are just starting the school year, and you and/or your staff still need some or all of their professional standard training hours, consider attending a state-wide or national conference where the diverse learning and connections can have a lasting impact.  Consider attending a training that includes hands on learning, such as a culinary boot camp, a knife skills training or a training on alternative seasoning profiles to decrease the sodium in school meals!   If your plan is to train staff in house, be sure to mix it up so that employees make new connections and learn from their peers from other schools within district!  New connections will be made and sharing sharing of best practices, as well as challenges, will happen… and that is were the road to success begins!

Enjoy your school year!  I hope you will utilize Professional Standard training requirements to engage your team and get them excited about school meals, because if your team is excited about school meals, the students will get excited about school meals!  #HealthyFoodFuelsHungryMinds!

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