SNF Scholarship Series: ANC First Timer Kristen Deel, Cafeteria Manager, EB Stanley Middle School, Washington County Public Schools, Virginia

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.

Kristin Deel was a young, single mom in search of a job with more family-friendly hours than her retail management position could offer, when her father—a teacher—suggested she look for a position in her local school district.

“I was still a manager at a Liz Claiborne outlet when I became a mom, which meant I worked every night, and on weekends,” recalled Deel. “If an employee didn’t show up, as manager, I had to cover that shift. I didn’t want Logan to be raised by a babysitter, so I looked [for jobs] and the only thing open was a custodian position. When I went for my interview the Human Resources person said, ‘I want you to speak with someone’ and asked if I could wait a few minutes. They brought back the child nutrition director at the time, and she hired me.”

Not only did her new position in the cafeteria dish room offer better hours, it was also the beginning of Deel’s passion for—and career in—child nutrition.

“Within a year I was assistant manager, and I never looked back,” recalled Deel. “Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. In retail I didn’t “do” anything, but here I know I feed a child two hot meals a day—and I wish we could do more. This is my passion, and I can’t even think about doing anything else.”

Deel was nominated by her supervising coordinator at Washington County Public Schools, Francine Ivery, who is also the president of SNA Virginia. Ivery says she submitted Deel’s name for the First Timer award because of her can-do attitude.

“Kristen is such a go-getter!” said Ivery. “She works so well with her team members, and she’s always looking for new ways to bring students in. Kristen is always full of new ideas, and she is never afraid to call the central office and make suggestions. She has also been our representative on the superintendent’s committee, and she’s been our school nutrition representative this year.”

It’s Ms. Ivery who Deel credits with her involvement in SNA. In fact, Deel says that Ivery’s passion for the organization rubbed off onto her, and now she makes certification a requirement in her own kitchen.

“I joined [SNA] immediately after I came here and Ms. Ivery told me about it, and so I’ve been a member for about four years,” she said. “There are six of us in my kitchen and we are all members, and we are all certified. I feel like you should never stop learning, and to me SNA is the greatest source of information in our continuing education.”

Deel also took a moment to thank her co-workers, crediting their strength and dedication as inspirational and motivational.

“I have to shout-out my entire district! We are so diverse, and we all come together and work together—as a team—and it’s because of Ms. Ivery. She is an exceptional director. She really listens, she promotes anything we want to try, and she gives us the tools to do it. It’s not about one person—there is no “I” in team. It’s all of us, together, in Washington County, Virginia.”

As the trip to San Antonio draws near, Ivery believes that Deel will find a great deal of value in the whole experience, but especially the ability to meet and connect with fellow school nutrition professionals from around the country.

“Kristen will get a lot out of the education sessions, because she is always interested in learning. The experience as a whole will be valuable to her, in the opportunity to meet and network with her peers. When we go to state conferences it’s a time to brainstorm, to see and try new things. We will do that at ANC on an even bigger scale.”

The adventure doesn’t end when the conference is over, however. Deel is taking the opportunity to do a little extra traveling with her family, as well.

“I asked Ms. Ivery for a one-way ticket and she thought maybe I was planning to stay in Texas, but I’m coming back to Virginia!” she laughed. “My parents are staying in a campground outside of San Antonio with Logan while I’m at the conference, and then we’re going to see Texas and drive home in the RV. We’ll come up through Missouri, and across the Mississippi. I only wish my husband could get the time off to come, too!”

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