There's Never A Dull Moment For Tramel's Class
Vicki Tramel's Longview High School classroom is never boring.
"It's never a dull moment in my room," Mrs. Tramel said. "I entertain my students so that they learn."
If she sees a student getting bored, she starts singing or dancing to perk them up, she said.
Mrs. Tramel, 58, is the culinary arts instructor in the Longview Independent School District Culinary Program and teaches at Longview High School.
After 21 years of teaching, she received the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation's 2012 Educator Excellence Award. She was presented the award at the 2012 Southwest Foodservice Expo June 24 in Dallas, and will be recognized with the award again on July 25 at the Career and Technology Directors Association of Texas event in Dallas.
Mrs. Tramel said she was surprised to be chosen out of of 16 teachers nominated statewide.
"I was hopeful, but I was really surprised," she said. "There was some really good teachers ... It means the world to me that I'm actually acknowledged by peers for the thing I love to do."
Mrs. Tramel was a homemaking teacher until she started the culinary arts program at Longview High School 10 years ago. Before she wrote an innovative program for culinary arts, students were taught only food science and nutrition. When she started the program, she was teaching 25 to 30 kids in a cramped room. After repeatedly asking for an expansion, she said Cathy Cace, of Johnny Cace's Seafood & Steakhouse in Longview helped make the program what it is today. Mrs. Cace attended the school district's meetings and was vocal about the need to grow the program, she added.
When the Longview ISD bond passed years ago, it included expanding the high school's career and technology building. Two years ago, Mrs. Tramel moved into a huge classroom with a commercial kitchen and a restaurant, dubbed the Lobo Bistro, which seats about 75 people.
The Longview program is a Texas ProStart Program, which teaches students everything about cooking, all the way to opening and managing a restaurant. She said ProStart is the curriculum they use that was developed by the Texas Restaurant Association.
The Longview program has since grown from a handful of students to her teaching more than 200 students last year, and more than 300 kids signed up for the program for 2012-13, she said. Mrs. Tramel teaches advanced courses, and her students cater luncheons and other school events and have even catered events for Dillard's and other community organizations.
Starting this fall, Kilgore College will begin offering evening classes out of the Longview High School facility, she said. And Mrs. Tramel will also start teaching her high school students courses, in which they can receive duel credits for high school and college.
"I can't believe it's gone this far," she said, adding that she is overwhelmed by how much the program has grown. "I'm so excited."
She expects that the program will continue to grow in numbers, and she hopes to expand it to include students doing more catering jobs for the Longview community outside of the school district. She would also like to have the students cook dishes that could be frozen and sold to raise money.
Mrs. Tramel said some students take her classes because they are interested in a culinary career and have gone on to graduate from culinary schools, while others just want to learn to cook and some think they will be eating all the time during class.
She said her mother taught her how to cook when she was a little girl on a step stool. "I helped every day," she said. "I loved it."
Once a year, Mrs. Tramel returns to being a student, attending the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Austin to learn new things to teach her students. In 2009, she did a four-week externship at Johnny Cace's, where she learned everything about the restaurant business - from busing tables and helping prepare food, to washing dishes and serving customers. She said her favorite part was washing dishes because it felt like she was getting a steam facial.
"I tried to find something positive in everything I did," she said. "I always try to teach that to my students."
Mrs. Tramel said that when she was in high school, home economic classes pretty much taught women how to be housewives. Now, schools are going for work base programs to prepare students for the workforce by teaching life skills needed to get good-paying jobs.
Mrs. Tramel was born in Tyler and grew up in Longview, where she graduated from high school in 1972. She graduated from Kilgore College and was working as a secretary when a teacher friend "sparked an interest" in her, she said. She went back to college, earning a bachelor's degree in vocational home economics from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1977. She taught a year in Killeen and five years in Sabine. She also took some time off to do other things and went back to college to teach elementary school.
She has been teaching in Longview for 15 years and has been a home economics/culinary arts teacher there for the last 12 years. Mrs. Tramel and her husband of 27 years, Wayne, have two children, Noel, 26, and Noah, 25.