Program: Leisure/Family Consumer Science (Mexican Cooking)
Has Taught at SCC Since: 2012. I also taught at Southcentral Community College in the 1990s.
Years of Work Experience Outside SCC: Translation/Interpreting since 1997 in social services, medical, and court. Day job is working with United States Immigration Services.
Describe your teaching philosophy.
I believe that my love of cooking should be felt by all my students’ senses. This passion can be contagious for even the students who were not expecting too much. I learn from the students as much as they do from me and give them every opportunity to tell me how I can do things better and to be creative. It is always OK to let them tweak my recipes in a way that resonates with their own memories and tummies. I share my culture and memories of family stories behind the recipes. I am not too intimidated by my mistakes because it is a good opportunity to demonstrate that when you cook with love, it will be tasty no matter what.
Why did you decide to teach at a community college?
I taught Mexican cooking classes at Southcentral Community College back in the 1990s. Years later I moved to Lincoln. In 2012, a very nice work friend encouraged me to teach a cooking class at SCC geared for the employees association where I worked. I was always sharing my dishes at work for fundraisers, and they wanted to learn how to make some of my dishes. That was the beginning of teaching at SCC, and I am still having fun in the classroom.
What can prospective students expect when they enroll in your program?
I hope they are expecting to learn how to ace traditional Mexican dishes, to laugh a lot and to go home with full tummies and leftovers. My favorite thing to do at the end of the class is to allow time to set the table with one of my colorful Mexican tablecloths and set out all our dishes and sit down to eat family style. We eat and then we go around the table to open up a discussion about what they liked and which dishes they are likely to try cooking at home. I love any advice they can offer for improving my process and any ideas of what they would like to see me teach. I also want them to know that cooking is only half of the process. The other half, and equally as important, is the presentation. You really eat with the “eyes.” You can elevate humble tacos to a grand occasion just by how you serve with bright beautiful color and textures. I hope that no matter what they are learning, my students will remember how this class experience made them feel, even if they can’t remember what they cooked. I can’t describe how much I enjoy this time.
What experiences outside of SCC do you bring to the classroom/laboratory that enhance student learning?
I have been cooking all my life and love to entertain. I grew up in a big Mexican family and learned from my mother, who is a queen in the kitchen. I was born in Mexico and go back frequently to learn more about Mexican gastronomy and stock up on colorful tablecloths and cooking tools. It seems like all my life, everything I do, is about feeding people. It makes me so happy to see someone enjoy the fruits of my labor. Cooking for others is my love talk!
What advice do you have for students pursuing a degree in your program?
No matter your experience in the kitchen, you will enjoy one of my classes and learn something that you can share with your family and friends for your next party or celebration. There is nothing mysterious or unduly difficult about my dishes. I wish I had more time to offer more classes so everyone can attend.
What do you enjoy most about working with students?
I enjoying getting to know my students. When they come to the class for the first time, they are reticent and somewhat nervous. After the chaos of my class starts, that reticence disappears. My classes are definitely a “hands-on” class. I love it when students show up early, because I put them to work cleaning cilantro and prepping the veggies. During the class, I like to pick a student who seems especially shy or unsure of him or herself. I pick them to demonstrate what I want to accomplish such as making a pan of Mexican rice. It is such a confidence booster when they produce the perfect pan of rice. It is fun to see them reveal their talents and sense of humor. I can honestly say that I consider every one of my students to be my friend. It is fun to run into them out in the community and get a hug or a big smile. I may not always remember their name, but I remember their face and energy.
What has been your proudest moment as an instructor?
The moment that the students set out all our finished dishes on the set table and that look of pride that they all have on their faces. Then we sit down to enjoy our feast.
What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?
I enjoy planning my next family celebration, picking a menu, decorating my table, and preparing the food. I have a cookbook addiction and enjoy looking at my cookbooks to get ideas for future culinary presentations.
What would students be surprised to know about you?
There is probably not much that would surprise them since I pretty much show inner self to them in our interactions. Perhaps, the fact that as much as I love to cook and eat, there are some foods that I still avoid, like stewed tomatoes, gooey okra, cooked brains, tripe, beef tongue, and octopus tentacles. Maybe someday, when I grow up, I will learn to like these “delicacies.”