Chef Leigh’s Backpack of Blessings

Chef Leigh’s Backpack of Blessings
Meet Our FINAL High 5 Winner, Chef Leigh


Teacher Peach is thrilled to present the 5th winner of Teacher Peach’s “Granting Teacher Goals!” High 5 Initiative, Chef Leigh!

Chef Leigh is gearing up to help those around her and her school who are less fortunate most specifically, those who find themselves presently homeless. This heartfelt High 5 Initiative reaches out into the community by developing a backpack project for those individuals and families who are currently homeless. Through charitable donations from local companies and organizations, Chef Leigh and her amazing and dedicated students gather materials and fill backpacks with useful items that truly matter—items many of us may take for granted. These thoughtful care kits not only help need some very basic needs, on a deeper level, these dignified gifts help remind people that there are people who care and want to help. This initiative helps increase student, neighborhood, and community awareness and sends a message that everyone can do something to help someone else! Teacher Peach is thrilled to help through our High 5 Initiative award, too.

LeeAndra Khan, who carefully judged all of the entries in Teacher Peach’s High 5 Initiative, explains why this project was chosen as the final winning entry. “Community Service projects not only teach students to collaborate and engage, this kind of project goes even further, teaching students the importance of having—and showing—empathy for others. Students participating in this project will also gain vital leadership skills that they will be able to apply in all of their future endeavors.”

Chef Leigh Says . . .
We had the privilege of interviewing Chef Leigh about her experiences in education and her goals for this particular project. She shared her thinking and views as follows—

TP: How long have you been teaching?
CL: All my life! I have always enjoyed sharing with others. About eight years ago, I was approached by a local technical college and asked to teach in the Culinary Arts Department. I really had a wonderful time there. Then, I was asked to consider teaching at the local high school. Having made it through high school once, I honestly was not all that eager to return, but return I did. I put on my dress uniform, my best smile, and did my best in the interview. It must have been right for all of us because I had a contract offer before I even got home. The rest, as they say, is history!

TP: Why did you become a teacher?
CL: Originally I starting teaching because I was looking for a job in the culinary field and a position opened up at the college level. It wasn’t until I began teaching high school that I realized that teaching was my “surprise destiny!”  Something just “clicked” for me when I started working with students at the high school level. My students really are eager to hear and be heard.  Once I really understood how to communicate with my students, and listen to what they have to say to me, I really began to hit my stride as an effective teacher. It takes both students and teachers to make any learning experience work.

TP: What are the most inspiring aspects of teaching for you?
CL: One of the most thrilling and inspiring aspects of teaching is being able to witness that true “aha” moment—when a student finally “gets it” and the light bulb goes on. That expression is one that can carry me for along time.Helping students engage and become hooked into what I am hoping to teach can be done so many ways and usually the kids will tell you what works best for them if you, as a teacher, are open to spotting it. I am so thankful to be on the faculty of a project-based-learning school. Here, I have the freedom to use many different avenues for instruction. I’m happy to report that it is never quite “status quo” in my classroom. On any given day, we typically have four or five different tasks going on, all of them relevant and filled with real-world connections. I know I do a lot to prepare, as any teacher should, but it’s like a stage: when the students arrive, I love seeing their individual progress and our group progress unfold in front of me.

TP: How do you think this project will impact your students and what outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
CL: Our Backpack Project is a leadership initiative through LEAD2FEED and this is the second semester we have worked through this program. It was written for high school students to allow them the opportunity to create and control a project that impacts our local community. Many of my students didn’t even realize that we had homeless students in our school, much less in the community. They had associated homelessness with downtown Atlanta where they knew there are people living under the bridges, and so forth, but not in our own community.

Through research and discussion, we were able to team up with a local church that serves the homeless population. We sponsored Candy Grams for Valentine’s Day and sold over 300! We used the proceeds to purchase items for the backpacks. Our BIG GOAL is 50 packs- 25 for local high school students and 25 to be passed out to those outside of school who may also need these items. To date, eight different clubs or teams at our school have joined in by donating needed items—and it continues to grow.

My students are now so much more aware that “societal” issues are applicable everywhere—including our own community. They have become much more civic minded, too. Hopefully, this knowledge will stick with them and will become a part of what they carry into adulthood. Having the chance to know that they are able to personally do something to make a difference to others is very powerful to learn at 15 and 16 years old. It means a lot to these kids—and to those they help.  

TP: What advice would you have for other teachers?
CL: Have confidence in your students! Our students are amazing people. Get to know that. Don’t just let them out of the traditional “box” of education—really invite them out. ANYTHING can be turned into an applicable lesson with a little forethought.  REALLY listen to what they have to say (even if it seems silly) and above all, be honest with them. My kids trust me more because I admit when I am wrong and when I admit I don’t know the answer. We all know it takes time to build relationships; take that time because it is worth it.  Sometimes the best thing you can do as a teacher is to just stop and really listen. When your students trust you—and you believe in them—you will be amazed at what can happen!

Sparked by Chef Leigh?
Chef Leigh’s advice is inspiring and motivating! Teacher Peach is proud to help Chef Leigh and her students as they continue to work to help the homeless and grow to be more engaged and involved in their community. In addition to the $100 award, Teacher Peach is also sharing some awesome products with Chef Leigh and her students.

Check out these Teacher Peach products Chef Leigh will use in both the backpacks and in her classroom …

Stick’R Treat Mega Stickers Collection
Little Black Books
What ideas does Chef Leigh’s project spark for you? How could you create or adapt a project like this for your students? What spaces surround your classroom that could be enlivened by the creativity of your kids?

Map Out Your CCSS Game Plan

Infusing the Common Core State Standards has become a reality in today’s classroom. Unlike the back-to-school activities that are one-time-only actions, tackling the Common Core State Standards is an ongoing, ever-evolving process—a process that will take longer than one school year to fully master. However, even though the Common Core State Standards journey is a long one, you can effectively build a strategy that allows you to build powerful lesson plans that incorporate the evolving standards year after year.

Cover the Basics
Start with the present. Get organized with everything you’ll need
 to make this year a success. Find any new resources you’ll need to
 start this year’s Common Core Implementation Planning. Create folders for all of your important files. Talk to peers about which organizational tools help them the most. Get ready to start recording your journey.

For each month of the school year, Continue reading “Map Out Your CCSS Game Plan”

Big-Picture Goal Setting for Big Successes

Now that school is in full swing, turn your focus to your big goals for the school year. Use these tips and Teacher Peach’s freebie download to help you set your big goals for the school year.

Set Your Goals
Every class in every school in every year comes with its own special twists and needs. Build your goal-planning process by considering the unique challenges this school year presents. Set or revise your goals after you get to know your students. Set milestone goals for the execution of your plan. This will help you to sketch a visual for the school year.

To achieve cohesive results by the end of the school year, begin with Continue reading “Big-Picture Goal Setting for Big Successes”

Five MORE Winning Strategies for a Great Go-to-School Night

Because Go-to-School Night is so important to fostering the best possible connections with the family members of your students, we’ve created five more winning strategies for a great Go-to-School Night for both the families of those in your class this year—and you! Check out these five additional winning strategies that many teachers use to reduce their stress about this impactful 90-minute session.

Strategy 6: Set the Stages for Learning About Learning
The family members of the students in your charge cannot possibly grasp what goes on in your classroom on a daily basis from only a short visit. They will experience the physical space, minus the biggest ingredients— Continue reading “Five MORE Winning Strategies for a Great Go-to-School Night”

Five Winning Strategies for a Great Go-to-School Night

For many teachers, Go-to-School Night is stressful, exhausting, and nerve-wracking. While some veteran teachers know exactly how to craft an impeccable 90-minute experience for the important adults in the lives of their students, this one evening can be extremely draining for many new and seasoned teachers alike—and it’s on a school night! So, to help you get the best results from your Go-to-School Night, check out these Five Winning Strategies.

Strategy 1: First Impressions Work Both Ways
Most likely you will be meeting some families for the first time while others may be long-time families with whom you have a history from having taught an older sibling. To be sure you put your best foot forward, Continue reading “Five Winning Strategies for a Great Go-to-School Night”

Go-to-School Night—Strategies for Success

Preparing for Go-to-School Night
Go-to-School Night is one of the first and most powerful chances you have as a teacher to create a great first impression with the Ps & Gs* (parents and guardians) of your new class (or classes) of students. Often, this hectic, anxiety-filled night comes much earlier in the new school year than many teachers might like. Other teachers, however, are just happy to have this night in their rearview mirror as quickly as possible. Either way, it’s important to best use this night to kick off great relationships with these Ps & Gs for the year ahead.

To prepare for Go-to-School Night, consider these strategies for success: Continue reading “Go-to-School Night—Strategies for Success”

Success Starts with a Smartly Arranged Classroom

A new school year means a new start for you, your students, and your classroom. HOW you arrange WHERE you teach is important. As teachers stream into schools to unroll posters from last year, make new locker signs, and set up classroom spaces, it’s an excellent time to consider something new. Just because you always had the word wall by the door doesn’t mean it has to go there again. Give your classroom—and yourself—a fresh new set up.

Big Goals Set Your Stage
First, articulate your big goals for the year. If you are teaching a new grade level this year, goal setting will be a natural part of your planning steps. If you are returning Continue reading “Success Starts with a Smartly Arranged Classroom”

Teacher Peach Freebies: Team Collaboration Commitments

Collaboration Takes Commitment from All Team Members
A new school year means attending plenty of meetings. Meetings are effective when everyone has a clear understanding of the meeting’s goals and when all team members are committed to the collaboration. Whether your school has team meetings every week, every month, or every quarter, you’ll want to set the tone for those meetings early in the school year.

Ensure All Team Members Are Committed to the Cause
Establish meeting ground rules and get buy-in from all team members by using this Team Collaboration Commitments document. It features a list of best practices for team collaboration that can serve as your ground rules for your team meetings.

Read through each point on the document. Discuss what each point means and how the action might look in your particular meetings. Then have all group members cement their commitment to the team by signing the document. Keep the document accessible during your meetings throughout the year and refer back to it to make sure your meetings continue to be effective.

Be Sure Your Group Is Prepared to Participate
Help liven up your team meetings with these Teacher Peach supplies.

Help reinforce the collaborative process with “Write.” Mechanical Pencils and “Revise.” Eraser Sticks. Show your team that you’re willing to write ideas and try new things, but that you’re just as willing to erase and revise ideas when bigger and better ideas are introduced.

Teacher Peach's Write Mechanical Pencils Teacher Peach's Revise Eraser Sticks

After your team meetings, be sure to show your appreciation to your team members by giving them a Partner Thank You Card that has the perfect message thanking them for being your partner. Enhance the message by writing your own message inside the card.

Teacher Peach's Partner Thank You Cards

Need more ideas? Check out

Putting Your Best Teacher Image Forward, Part 2

A New School Year Means New Beginnings
A brand new school year means the chance for brand new beginnings. Not only do you have the chance to connect with new families and students, you also have the chance to connect with peers, and even yourself, in new ways—and with a great new image that honors the fine work you do as an educator.

Your professional persona has a powerful impact on families, administrators, and colleagues—key people in your professional life as a teacher. How others perceive you at the start of each new school year can Continue reading “Putting Your Best Teacher Image Forward, Part 2”