FARMINGTON — Students in Tibbetts Middle School's advanced foods class don't have any excuses to get out of helping their parents with dinner.

Especially not after the students prepared about 1,600 meals during the school year.

The 24 students in Laura Pace's eighth-grade advanced foods class spent the school year preparing a variety of foods, ranging from cookies and punch to southwestern corn salad and lasagna, for the school's staff and students.

This was the first year the class was offered, Pace said. Students had to fill out applications for the class, and they were selected based on grades, behavior and teacher recommendations.

Eighth grader Cassidy Hazell beats an egg while preparing cornbread muffins on Friday at Tibbetts Middle School for the school’s advanced foods
Eighth grader Cassidy Hazell beats an egg while preparing cornbread muffins on Friday at Tibbetts Middle School for the school's advanced foods class' banquet. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

Parents of students in the class got a taste of their kids' hard work on Friday night. The students prepared a meal for their families consisting of a baked potato bar with all the fixings, including green chili, cheese, jalapeƱos, ham and bacon, and cornbread muffins, ice cream and brownies.

Daniel Westbury, father of student Wesley Caldwell, said his baked potato covered in green chili, ham, bacon and cheese was pretty good.

"It's a great opportunity to share what the kids did during the school year, and I appreciate it," Westbury said.

The goal of the class was to teach students industry standards for food service and hospitality.

Pace said the success of the class has exceeded her wildest expectations. Moving to the school's new campus on Twin Peak Boulevard at the beginning of the school year has helped with that. The new building includes a classroom with commercial kitchen equipment, including stoves, ovens and ample counterspace.

"We are beyond lucky to be where we are, and it has made a huge difference moving out here," Pace said. "I have the room to spread these kids out and teach them some great things."

Laura Pace, teacher of the advanced foods class at Tibbetts Middle School, stands in her kitchen classroom before her class’ banquet on Friday.
Laura Pace, teacher of the advanced foods class at Tibbetts Middle School, stands in her kitchen classroom before her class' banquet on Friday. (Megan Farmer /The Daily Times)

During the year, the class prepared 21 catering assignments for staff and students, including snacks like cookies and cupcakes for attendance celebrations for students with fewer than two absences.

Eighth grader Jordan James said the class prepared breakfast burritos several times for morning staff meetings, and they made lasagna for an evening teacher training.

"This (class) makes sure we are up to standard on preparing food for people, not just ourselves," James said. "I think I really learned to work with other people in a big group and how to make sure everything tastes right and how to measure things properly."

Tibbetts Middle School Principal Karen Brown, who attended Friday's dinner, said she hopes to introduce more project-based learning classes to Tibbetts in the future. She also praised what Pace accomplished with her students.

"She was taking the things they needed to know and turning them into real-life experiences," Brown said. "They had a wonderful time doing it. They have excelled."

Students also learned to adjust recipes to accommodate food allergies and different diets, including for people who are vegetarians or have been diagnosed with diabetes and celiac disease.

"We tried to take all those things into account as many times throughout the year," Pace said. "They have learned a lot. I don't think they know how much they learned, but I see it."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.