By Mark Ward, SR., PHD 2014-02-25 17:45:00
Receipt of scholarships to attend SNA meetings can deepen professional passion and knowledge. Meet Desiree Nozling HUGE!” That was Desiree Nozling’s initial impression of her very first SNA Annual National Conference (ANC). During the four days of last year’s event, held in Kansas City, she absorbed vital information ranging from the practical (“I got new ideas to improve my breakfast program!”), to the professional (“The networking was invaluable!”), to the personal (“I took a great class on how to use an iPad!”). Nozling’s opportunity was made possible through the award of an ANC First-Timer Scholarship from the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), the philanthropic arm of SNA. Funded through generous industry donations, more than $100,000 has been awarded since 2003 to members like Nozling. Each $500 scholarship is applied toward conference registration fees and travel expenses. Moving on Up A desire for ongoing professional growth propelled Nozling to her current position as cook/ manager at Victoria Elementary School in the East Carver (Minn.) Schools system. Starting out as part of the kitchen staff in 2002, over time she “saw how school nutrition makes such a big difference in kids’ lives—and how it would make a great career.” She attended her first Minnesota School Nutrition Association annual conference in 2004, attained SNA Level 3 certification and generally “prepared myself to become a manager if the opportunity arose.” The call came in 2007, when then-director Diane Timmers tapped Nozling to manage the Victoria operation. In that role, she leads five employees, handles food ordering and inventory, oversees up to 575 lunches served per day and in December established a brand-new school breakfast program. The success of that launch was a direct result of her ANC attendance, she credits. An education session on breakfast “was a highlight of my conference,” Nozling reports. “I learned, for example, what’s supposed to be on students’ breakfast trays according to the federal regulations.” Such knowledge was instrumental in getting her program going. “Right now, we’re up and running with about 30 breakfasts per day,” she reports. Securing her scholarship was simple. After reading an e-mail bulletin from SNA announcing the call for applications, Nozling decided to apply. Later, on being notified of the award, she was determined to prepare in advance to make the most of her first ANC. Plan and Prepare “I was going to the conference with another cook/manager from my district,” Nozling explains, “and we spent a lot of time studying the conference program and planning what to do. There are so many sessions and activities offered. “ANC isn’t like a state conference where the certification classes you have to attend are laid out for you,” she notes. ”At ANC, you can’t just get up each morning without a plan!” Other lessons for attending ANC came through experience. “Don’t eat everything the vendors offer you at the Exhibit Hall!” Nozling laughs. “And bring a canvas bag you can comfortably carry, even when you’ve filled it with Exhibit items and class materials.” She enjoyed some time on the town, especially the chance to experience real Kansas City barbecue. “But stay focused on why you’re at the conference,” she adds, “which is professional education and development.” Nozling’s first jobs were in the restaurant, grocery and deli trades. She eventually went into sales with an Ohio food brokerage in 1985. Five years later, she switched to customer service for a foodservice contractor. In time, Nozling moved to Minnesota and decided to stay home several years to focus on her family. When it came time for her youngest child to start school, Nozling was ready to resume her career. “But I didn’t want a job that involved travel or evening and weekend work,” she explains. In 2002, she spotted a help-wanted ad for a school kitchen cook. The rest, as they say, is history. Nozling concedes that “the work is fast, furious, frantic.” That’s why, she says, “You have to make it fun for your staff!” And speaking of fun, Nozling is already making her plans for ANC 2014. “Look for me in Boston!” [Editors’ Note: The application deadline for a 2014 ANC First-Timer Scholarship is Thursday, May 1, 2014. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/scholarships for details.] Current Title: Cook/Manager City, State: Victoria, Minn. Nickname: “None—but don’t ever call me Desi!” Profession You’d Choose If Not School Nutrition: A hand model—like in those old dish soap commercials Top of Your Bucket List: Visit Italy Dream Dinner Guest: Oprah Winfrey Hobbies: Baking, crafts, [watching my daughter’s] dancing Meet Sandi Walter Knowing her retirement was around the corner, Sandi Walter, SNS, spent much time in recent years thinking about the professional goals she wanted to achieve as a capstone to her career. In this spirit, she left a comfortable job as a high school cafeteria manager in 2012 to help open a brand-new school. “It was a chance to do something really special,” says Walter, cafeteria manager at Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville, Tenn. Walter started her school nutrition career in midlife. The change energized her, and over the course of the last 13 years, she has served as president of her SNA local chapter, been certified as an SNA trainer and earned the School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) designation. She regularly attends Tennessee School Nutrition Association annual meetings, as well as the SNA Annual National Conference. But there was one experience that was missing. A Wish Realized “I’d always wanted to attend SNA’s Legislative Action Conference (LAC), as well, since advocacy is so important,” Walter recounts. But traveling to the annual event, held in Washington, D.C., simply was beyond her budget—until 2013 and a fortuitous opportunity came her way. Walter was named SNA’s very first Josephine Martin National Policy Fellow. The new award honors the commitment of SNA Past President Dr. Josephine Martin, who in her career testified some 50 times before Congress and helped win passage of the 1966 Child Nutrition Act. In tribute, the Josephine Martin Endowment Fund was established through the School Nutrition Foundation, SNA’s philanthropic arm. The Endowment is intended to provide funds to assist one SNA member in attending LAC for the first time. When Walter learned about the new fellowship opportunity, she decided to apply—though she was skeptical of her chances for success. “You have to submit three essays, and I’m not the best writer,” she admits. “But I also love a project that challenges me. It was wintertime and, when we had a snow day, I spent the entire day working on those essays!” To her delight and surprise, Walter was notified three weeks before LAC that she had been chosen the inaugural fellow. “It all happened so fast,” she recalls, “but the experience left a vivid impression on me.” While one highlight was being recognized during the opening general session, the real thrill for Walter was meeting Dr. Martin and all the other SNA past presidents in attendance. “Just to sit up front with them was such an honor, because they’re the heroes of school nutrition. Yet they were so kind and humble and shared their personal stories with me,” she recounts, adding that it was also a treat to meet with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “He’s been to our school district before,” Walter says, “and he actually remembered me. Maybe as school nutrition professionals, we make more of an impression than we think!” From Fighter Jets to Fighting Hunger Walter’s journey as an advocate for child nutrition took something of a two-decade detour. After high school, she earned an associate’s degree and planned to enter home economics. “But the field was changing,” she says, “and getting away from many of its traditional concerns.” In time, she married and found work in the aerospace industry— building training simulators for fighter jet pilots! Raising four daughters, Walter used her home economics background to start a lunch program at their Florida private school in 1994. She ran the operation for three years before moving to a full-time foodservice position with the local school district, working her way up to manager by 1999. “Meanwhile,” she recounts, “we’d discovered Maryville, Tenn., on a family vacation to the Great Smokies. We thought it would be a great place to retire—but then decided, why wait?” After 13 years of service to her adopted community as a school nutrition professional, Walter finally will enjoy Maryville as a place to retire at the end of this school year. Still, she says, “I’m going to be available as a trainer and consultant. When it comes to school nutrition, you never stop being an advocate!” [Editors’ Note: The 2014 Josephine Martin National Policy Fellow application period has closed.] Current Title: Cafeteria Manager City, State: Maryville, Tenn. Profession You’d Choose If Not School Nutrition: Travel Agent Bedside Book/Magazine: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen Someone You Admire: SNA Past President Dr. Josephine Martin Top of Your Bucket List: Take a Baltic cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia Dream Dinner Guest: Ray Nitschke, Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers linebacker Mark Ward is a freelance writer in Victoria, Texas
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