ROSEMOUNT, Minn. (WCCO) — This week’s Excellent Educator traveled the country perfecting her trade before entering her Rosemount classroom.  We go into the kitchen to see how that experience helped Patty LaBeau teach others culinary arts.

For 11 years, LaBeau has taught students through the ISD 917 Career and Technical Education Program located within Dakota County Technical College.

LaBeau didn’t have a teaching degree, but she was hired for her loads of experience in the restaurant business.

“I used to own the Depot Bar in Faribault and I worked at Walt Disney in Florida and I worked at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, so I brought all those skills here and then I became a teacher,” LaBeau said.

LaBeau said sharing those experiences helps prepare her students for the real world.

“They’re engaged, they’re hands-on and they’re doing it, they’re reading about it because they are reading a recipe, even standing on their feet for 90 minutes. That’s something a lot of people would have a hard time doing,” she said.

Her students come from all over Dakota County high schools. Some are in alternative and special education programs. They’ll spend 90 minutes a day chopping, frying and of course tasting before being sent back to their home districts.

“When we email back to our home schools the same student we say ‘Billy is doing a great job and they say, ‘okay everything is fine, of course, he’s engaged’ and of course I have a big hook, they get to eat every day,” she said.

“Honestly she taught me how to make chicken. I never cooked before in my life,” Mikayla Gang, a student, said. “Just being here, having this experience, I love it.”

The entire building must love LaBeau too. Every Friday, her students serve up lunch for just $6 a meal.

“It ranges from fish sandwiches and French fries for Lent for $6, Chinese chicken tacos for $6, cheeseburger and french fries,” Perry Carlson, a student, said.

While not every day is a success in the kitchen, LaBeau doesn’t give up on her students, encouraging them not to give up either.

“We definitely have some days where we have some not-so-excellent food here, but at the same time with the demonstrations and our help as we go around the room we hit all the learning styles and so it makes students successful,” she said.

Along with teaching, LaBeau is working on getting her master’s degree in administration.

Someday she wants to be a dean of students, but in a small setting so she can be close to the kids, but still have administration duties.

Kim Johnson

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