Editorial: SCHS culinary teacher Sissy Ivy deserving of national award

May. 07, 2013 @ 11:27 PM

Sevier County High School's culinary program has won wide recognition and praise for getting students involved in a what could become a career in the food business. Leading this effort is Sissy Ivy, the culinary arts instructor. That she is a teacher was never in her plan, but her students are grateful her life took that turn.

Nominated by her students, Ivy is one of three winners of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s Faces of Diversity American Dream Award. She accepted her award at a ceremony during the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington. It is an award richly deserved by one of local education's unsung heroes.

While Ivy has been involved in the food industry for over 20 years, she has only been teaching for the last six. She calls her new role one of the most rewarding jobs she’s ever had. “It’s about what I can give back to my students,” she said. Talk to her about culinary arts at Sevier County High, and it's always about the students, not her own accomplishments.

Wil Keener, one of Ivy’s students, said the program has assisted him in several ways. “It’s helped me with leadership skills, working with others, time management – just squeezing things in – I play football, too, and we don’t just work during school. There have been times we have been here at 5 a.m. and times we’ve been here at midnight,” he said.

Besides encouraging the food talents of her students, Ivy also assists them in getting scholarships so they can study at the next level. She encourages her students to attend college, whether they want to major in culinary arts or not. Such advice is important to youngsters at a crossroads after they receive their diploma. Keener will attend Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., where he plans to major in culinary arts and nutrition.

One of seven children growing up in a single-family home, Ivy came from poverty. It wasn’t until after she was married that she had the opportunity to attend college. That's what she tells her students. Her 12 seniors are all signed up for college. Many may become chiefs or food service workers in an industry that continues to grow and need people. The kind of people Sissy Ivy is training and nurturing.

Congratulations on a job well done and an award much deserved.