Welcome to the 2016 SNF Scholarship Series! We are thrilled to revisit this popular series, in which we connect with your SNA colleagues from around the country to learn more about them and how an SNF scholarship is helping them pursue goals and achieve their dreams. Our First Timer recipients were nominated by a supervising director to attend their first Annual National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. We’ll meet our First Timers and their directors in the weeks leading up to ANC. Please visit the SNA website to learn more about ANC 2016 in San Antonio.
After fourteen years as a stay-at-home-mom, Debbie Rodewald decided that it was time to go back to work. Describing her re-entry into the workforce as “a huge transition,” she felt fortunate to land somewhere that already felt like home—the local school district where her own kids were students.
“I applied to be a sub and ended up being hired on in the school my own kids attended, so it was really just like coming home,” said Rodewald. “Now I’m in my ninth year, and I just love it.”
Nominated by Sumner School District’s Director of Child Nutrition Services Karen Brown, Rodewald was already planning to attend ANC in San Antonio to seek education on marketing and social media. Recently charged with running their district’s Facebook page, she hopes to come back from Texas with new tools to help her promote Sumners’ child nutrition programming.
“It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy it,” said Rodewald. “I’m creative, and I want to learn more about what I can do. I’m very excited to see Dayle Hayes [School Meals That Rock]—I’ve already reached out to her on Facebook!”
It’s that energetic spirit and work ethic that prompted Brown to nominate Rodewald for a First Timer Award.
“Debbie has always been a great employee,” said Brown. “She’s always willing to dive in and do whatever we need. She’s never been to a national conference before, and I knew she would enjoy it. She’s just the poster child for attending—she will learn as much as she can, she will remember it, and she will bring it back here and put it into practice. She’s the type of person who will immerse herself in the experience.”
An SNA member herself for twenty years, Karen Brown is also our new 2016 SNF Ambassador for the state of Washington. She’s been a director for thirteen years, and says her focus at ANC 2016 will be on legislative updates and director-level roundtable discussions to inspire new ideas.
“I love director roundtable classes,” said Brown. “You get so much information by interacting with other directors, and you always walk away thinking, ‘Why didn’t I think of that? It’s so simple!’ I get the most out of that sharing of ideas—menu ideas, staffing ideas—and those are the kinds of classes I love. If there are some regular breakouts on social media, I’ll go to those, too.”
As for Rodewald, in addition to seeking out social media and marketing education she’s also interested in attending sessions on food allergy management—a topic with which she is intimately familiar.
“I’m the parent of a daughter with a severe peanut allergy, so personally food allergies is something I’m really interested in,” she said. “I’ve dealt with [the peanut allergy] since she was a baby—she’s 18 now—and we’re seeing more and more allergies [in school], whether it’s gluten, or dairy, or nuts. I just feel like I need to know more.”
As their trip to San Antonio nears, Brown says one thing she most looks forward to is seeing Rodewald’s “First Timer” reactions to the entire experience.
“I jokingly told my husband that Debbie’s head is going to explode when she gets to national!” laughed Brown. “She’s going to be so overwhelmed and excited—especially when it comes to the Exhibit Hall—she’s just going to go crazy! Debbie is going to take advantage of every single thing. Even the classes she can’t get to, she’ll come back here and get online and look up the notes on the SNA website. It’s going to be really fun to watch someone who has never been to ANC before.”
In addition to soaking up as much of the conference as possible, Rodewald says she is also going to stay a few extra days in San Antonio to soak up some local color.
“It’s my first time to Texas, so I’m very, very excited! I’m staying a couple of extra days to soak up the sights, visit the Alamo, and enjoy my surroundings!”