Dairy Council of California, a nutrition education organization committed to elevating the health of children and families, celebrated National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4-8, by launching the Let’s Eat Healthy Educator Recognition Program. The new program identifies, engages and celebrates California educators who advocate for the health of their students and school community through nutrition education.
The program also includes an award component, the Let’s Eat Healthy Leadership Award, which allows educators who embody the spirit of the program to be recognized by their peers and industry partners for teaching nutrition education in the classroom and demonstrating outstanding advocacy.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic top of mind for all of us, causing school closures and sheltering in place, the important role educators play in the lives of students and the commitment to seeing students succeed is more evident than ever,” said Tracy Mendez, registered dietitian nutritionist and program director of nutrition education at Dairy Council of California. “Distance learning is the new normal with teachers providing instruction remotely and parents, grandparents, caregivers and fellow students asked to help fill in the gaps. By celebrating their successes, we can acknowledge and show appreciation to the challenges teachers overcome every day.”
In this inaugural year, Dairy Council of California says it is proud to celebrate all educators and to honor the following four California educators with the Let’s Eat Healthy Leadership Award:
- Michelle Mead—A kindergarten teacher at Coeur d’Alene Avenue School in Venice, California, Mead has incorporated nutrition education into her classroom curriculum since she began teaching three years ago. She believes, “Teaching nutrition to my young students creates a foundation for healthy eating habits and enables them to make healthier food choices when they are able and ready to make those decisions independently.” Learn more about Mead here.
- Sheryl Miller—A kindergarten teacher at Blanche Reynolds Elementary School in Ventura, California, Miller has taught for more than 24 years. She teaches nutrition education in her classroom because she believes it is vital for the success of her students. “I teach Harvest of the Month and use Dairy Council of California’s nutrition curriculum, which complements those lessons so well,” she said. “My students enjoy learning about different foods and how to eat healthfully, a vital life skill that will help them grow to their full potential.” Learn more about Miller here.
- Michaela Nealy—A first-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Stockton, California, Nealy has taught nutrition education to her students since she began teaching two years ago. An educator at a Title I, culturally diverse school, she said, “The health of students matters because when kids come to school hungry and worried about when they will get their next meal, they are unable to pay attention in the classroom or learn. Nutrition education, when paired with food access, provides children with the security and knowledge needed to support them for academic and lifelong success.” Learn more about Nealy here.
- Chris Tamez—A physical education teacher at Peter J. Shields Elementary School in Rancho Cordova, California, Tamez has taught for five years and incorporated nutrition education as part of the physical education curriculum for the past two years. A strong advocate for healthy students, he said, “Nutrition education is critical to student health. By teaching nutrition education as part of physical education, my students learn how to build the foundation for good health, which requires a healthy, nutritious diet as well as adequate amounts of physical activity.” Learn more about Tamez here.
Dairy Council of California provides free, science-based nutrition education resources to teach healthy eating and empower healthier students and families. Funded by California dairy farmers and processors as a philanthropic contribution to elevating the health of children and communities throughout the state, Dairy Council of California is a nutrition education organization under the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The organization has elevated the health of children and families through the pursuit of lifelong healthy eating habits for more than 100 years.
“Educators are key influencers in the lives of their students,” said Mendez. “By teaching nutrition education, children learn the important role foods play in their lives and how to make healthier food choices. This enables them to build a strong foundation for good health starting at a young age that will last a lifetime.”
Learn more about this year’s Let’s Eat Healthy leaders, the Educator Recognition Program and how to access free nutrition programs and resources by visiting HealthyEating.org/NutritionAdvocacy.