By Doug Scott 2017-06-15 10:01:21
SNA’s Certificate and Credentialing Programs can help position you for long-term success in a school nutrition career. There is a series of age-old questions that school district employers continue to contemplate without cut-and-dried answers: Where is the next generation of school nutrition directors, supervisors and managers going to come from? What skills do they need? How do I know if they are truly qualified for the challenges of management and leadership in cafeteria-and-district-level operations? Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to the hiring process. Current directors and supervisors can take some comfort, however, when seeing that a candidate has earned the SNA Certificate in School Nutrition or the SNA School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) credential. Whether this individual is seeking a growth opportunity within the department or comes from outside the district, having the Certificate (or the SNS) not only demonstrates a level of expertise and knowledge in school nutrition operations, it’s also evidence of their commitment to this business—and to their own professional development. These are the people who will be filling manager, supervisor and director positions in the future. School nutrition has never been “easy.” There have always been requirements to follow for meal planning, food safety, procurement and other aspects of the operation. There has always been too little time to serve too many kids. There have always been days filled with broken equipment, absent staff, late deliveries and other crises. But today, the pace of change and the impatience of stakeholders have increased exponentially. Managerial applicants with an SNS or a Certificate in School Nutrition know the score. They have experience in the real-world of K-12 school meal operations. Are you ready to be the future of school nutrition? In the pages that follow, you’ll find both inspiration and information about pursuing these professional development opportunities. Let this be the year that you push your professional growth to the next level! School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) There is something special about having an SNS after your name. The three letters stand for School Nutrition Specialist and the designation demonstrates a mark of excellence and achievement that reflects what it takes to lead a school nutrition department in today’s changing climate. The purpose of the 220 multiple-choice questions that comprise the SNS Credentialing Exam is to evaluate a candidate’s knowledge areas and the skills required to perform specific job activities related to managing or directing school meal operations. The questions on the SNS Credentialing Exam are based on the four Key Areas of SNA and USDA’s professional development programming and encompass nine distinct knowledge/content areas and competencies. An independent testing company oversees the electronic grading of the exam. Before you can sit for the SNS exam, you must meet a mix of academic and work experience criteria, complete an application and pay a fee. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/sns to learn more details about the program. The website also includes links to the School Nutrition Specialist Credentialing Exam Handbook & Application (which includes a resource list of materials used in development of the exam questions). Applicants also may want to purchase the SNS Study Guide and/or the School Food and Nutrition Service Management textbook. These are available in a specially priced bundle ($109 + S&H) for SNA members. Visit the www.schoolnutrition.org/bookstore to purchase these resources online. Benefits of an SNS Credential ➧ Provides formal recognition of professional achievement at a national level ➧ Provides professional recognition from subordinates, peers and superiors ➧ Increases ability to manage a complex food service operation ➧ Demonstrates commitment to the school nutrition profession ➧ Enhances career opportunities ➧ Elevates self-esteem and pride in one’s work ➧ Improves credibility with school district administrators and the general public The Rewards of Professional Growth It’s not just earning (and maintaining) an SNA Certificate and/or the SNS Credential that matters, but why you choose to invest the time and make the commitment to do so. Tammy Posey has been cafeteria manager at Peterson Elementary School in Weston, W.Va., for the past five years. She has earned an SNA Level 3 Certificate, and believes it demonstrates the kind of knowledge foodservice professionals need to run an efficient and successful school kitchen today. “I came a long way. I started as a cook and worked myself up to where I am now,” says Posey, who currently serves as vice president of the West Virginia SNA. “The SNA Certificate has made me better at my job.” Posey readily encourages others to make the commitment. “There are some who might say, ‘What’s in an SNA Certificate for me?’ And what is in it for me, is that it has given me the knowledge to help provide healthy meals to the children in my county.” For many seasoned foodservice professionals like Karen Olsen, RDN, LD, SNS, years of experience alone was not enough knowledge to allow her to flourish at her job. A registered dietitian employed in the Harford County (Md.) Public Schools Department of Food and Nutrition Services, Olsen says nobody had to “convince” her to earn the School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) credential. “When my supervisor [Gary Childress, SNS] first came to the county 10 years ago, he encouraged all the area specialists on staff to take the SNS exam,” recalls Olsen. “I didn’t even need to think about it. After already earning a RDN and LD after my name, I knew I needed to do this, because an SNS shows a specific expertise in school nutrition.” Olsen goes on to explain, “Earning an SNS reinforced my belief that people who are school nutrition professionals are often underestimated by outsiders. We need to have such a broad base of knowledge because we are not simply throwing a meal together; it’s much more complicated than that. There is a lot of information to comprehend, or at least have a working knowledge of, to make the right decisions. That reinforces just how talented school nutrition professionals need to be.” Adaptability, creative problem solving and a high tolerance for uncertainty can be even more relevant to employers than experience. Due to the proverbial sands that are constantly shifting in school cafeterias throughout the country. After working almost 20 years as a manager with Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants, one would think there is nothing Lexi Edwards didn’t know about foodservice operations. But, as a part-time prep assistant at Pleasant Lea Elementary School in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Edwards found it immensely valuable to have the knowledge and training she gained through pursuit of her Level 1 Certificate. “I have one child in elementary school and one in middle school, and it is important for me to understand how we prepare the food for the students and the types of foods that we serve,” says Edwards. “I may have quite a bit of restaurant experience and am pretty familiar with the kitchen environment, but the SNA Certificate program gave me a better understanding [of school meals].” Earning a Level 1 Certificate gave Paula Gualtieri more than knowledge. It helped her gain confidence. “I was just a-stay-at-home mom,” recalls Gualtieri, cafeteria manager at Canyon Park Junior High School, Northshore School District, in Bothell, Wash., and president-elect of the Washington SNA. “After being an executive secretary and not working for a number of years, I felt like I lost my skill level. Getting my SNA certificate, I got my confidence back, so I now could talk to a parent or a principal about what we are serving, and why it is a healthy meal and handle myself professionally around them.” Gualtieri wants to see this confidence bloom in all her colleagues. “I think our group of dedicated individuals in school foodservice need the Certificate to continue to grow with confidence. I manage five people in the kitchen. Some have college degrees and some don’t; some took the job because, like me, they have kids at home. But whatever your background, an SNA Certificate—any level—is a great avenue to learn about this profession.” Learning about yourself is another important outcome of pursuing professional growth opportunities. It was only after receiving his Level 1 Certificate in 2013 that Luis Angel Morales-Salazar knew he aspired to be child nutrition manager and have a career in this business. Morales-Salazar’s initial ambition was to become a Latin dance teacher in the Salt Lake City School District. To get his foot in the door, he got a job as a child nutrition tech in the cafeteria, but to work there full-time, he needed to earn an SNA Certificate. “To be honest, at the beginning I did not like foodservice because it was just cooking and serving food,” recounts Morales-Salazar, who was named the 2016 SNA West Regional Manager of the Year. But once I started going to all those classes to earn my SNA Certificate and network with other managers, that is when I knew I really wanted to become a foodservice professional and learn as much as I could about school nutrition.” Gone are his dreams of instructing the samba and rumba. Now, he says, “I like my job so much, I want to retire in the school district’s child nutrition department.” Posey, Olsen, Edwards, Gualtieri and Morales-Salazar don’t pretend to have all the answers. They simply understand that to stay at the top of their game and keep up with demands of an ever-changing work environment, they need the ongoing training and development that only an SNA Certificate or SNS credential can provide. SNA Certificate in School Nutrition Growth One of the most important investments that you can make to yourself, your place of employment and the foodservice profession, is to earn a Certificate in School Nutrition. It adds credibility to your position—and to your school’s cafeteria program. It enhances your professional image with supervisors, parents and administrators. Most important of all, it helps you stay current on the latest issues related to your job. Serious about taking the next step in your career and want to earn an SNA Certificate in School Nutrition? There are a few things that you need to know. First, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/certificate. This page of SNA’s website features the downloadable SNA Certificate in School Nutrition Program Guide and the Certificate Program Application, as well as links about Continuing Education Units (CEUs), changing levels, frequently asked questions and tools to promote achievement once you’ve earned the Certificate. Benefits of an SNA Certificate ➧ Provides a career ladder you can use to advance in the field ➧ Adds credibility to your position and to your school’s program ➧ Enhances your professional image with supervisors, parents, and administrators ➧ Allows you to stay current on the latest issues and solutions related to your job A Bridge to Success COMING IN JULY 2018 As evidenced by the thousands of school nutrition professionals who have obtained it, SNA’s Certificate in School Nutrition has been a fundamental way to ensure K-12 school nutrition professionals have the essential training and tools to maintain, enhance and supervise a school meals operation. For more than 40 years, the Association continually reviews and adapts the program to reflect changing standards and priorities in different areas of the profession. In July 2018, SNA will unveil a new, additional Level to the Certificate in School Nutrition program, which will effectively serve as a “bridge” between Level 1 and Level 2. The goal of this new Level is to provide Certificate-holders with a more realistic professional development path and help them strive toward continued growth and experiences beyond Level 1 requirements. Currently, the SNA Certificate School Nutrition program has three levels: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. The “bridge” level (new Level 2) would require fewer hours (46 hours) than the current Level 2 requirement (86 hours) and would therefore be a more practical opportunity for individuals who currently have a Level 1 to continue their professional development. This means that the existing Level 2 will now become Level 3 and the present Level 3 will, in turn, become Level 4. Level 1 will remain the same and a GED/high school diploma continues to be optional. However, the GED/high school diploma would be required for the new “bridge” Level 2 and continue to be required for Levels 3 and 4. Why is SNA doing this? Feedback from members indicates that introducing this new level will encourage more Level 1 Certificate holders to move to a new, achievable level and also, potentially attract new individuals to obtain a Certificate. Changes to the Certificate in School Nutrition program can be intimidating, but don’t be nervous; SNA is here to help. The new Level may cause problems for districts that offer incentives or contracts for current Levels 2 and 3. That’s a primary reason the new level will not roll out until July 2018 and instead provide ample time for districts and individuals to prepare. Updates will be posted on www.schoolnutrition.org/certificate when available. Certificate and Credentialing Governing Council SNA’s Certificate in School Nutrition and School Nutrition Specialist programs enjoy a sterling reputation because great care is taken to ensure they demonstrate unimpeachable integrity and reflect the very latest in current practices and requirements in school nutrition. The Governing Council is the group of dedicated volunteers who provide this oversight, establishing policies, reviewing and recommending targeted resource materials, updating exam questions and more. The Council operates autonomously from the SNA Board of Directors. This independence means that decisions or results of an exam appeal, cannot be overruled by the Board or staff. SNA takes pride in this example of best practices for membership organizations with certificate/credentialing programs. Members of the Council are selected to represent different segments of the school nutrition profession and are expected to have knowledge and expertise in each of the four Key Areas of SNA and USDA’s professional standards programming: Nutrition, Operations, Administration and Communications and Marketing. 2016–17 Certificate and Credentialing Governing Council ➧ Janice King, MEd, RDN, SNS, CDE, Chair ➧ Sheldon Gordon, MS, RD ➧ Traci Grgich, MS, RD, SNS ➧ Pierrette Hall, MEd ➧ Aleshia Hall-Campbell, PhD, MPH ➧ Phyllis Hodges, MPS, SNS ➧ Cheryl Johnson, RD ➧ Catherine Masters, SNS ➧ Barry Sackin, SNS ➧ Kevin Sauer, PhD, RD, LD ➧ Camille Soule, SNS ➧ Linda Sweeney, MS, RD, SNS ➧ Linda Wiley, MEd, RD, LD, SNS [ It takes a team to overcome the challenges characteristic to school meal programs—and it takes a team to seize the opportunities inherent in this foodservice segment, as well. If you have your SNS or SNA Certificate, be a cheerleader for these programs and promote their value to your colleagues! ] Doug Scott, is an SN contributing editor
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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