Chef teacher Jessica Walton says it’s time for some home cooking with her own kids
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At her workplace at MTHS, Jessica Walton teaches kids the skills it takes to pursue a career in the art of cooking while also putting out any fires, literally and figuratively, along the way. Ten years ago, she said she’d have never been able to see herself teaching chef classes, but through the twist and turns of fate, that is precisely what she has been doing, and she loves it.
“Originally I didn’t want to teach chef at all,” Walton, MTHS’s main chef teacher, said. “I knew it was one of the classes I was certified to teach, but I was more passionate about teaching child development and personal finance. That’s not how education works. We don’t always get to choose what classes we get to teach, so when [there was an opening], it left a vacancy in this position and so I moved into this position, and I’ve grown to love it.”
Walton has taught all levels available of chef in high school, ranging from chef one to chef four. She has also been the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) advisor for six years.
“I’ve had her as a teacher, I’ve been her [teacher assistant] and also [had her as an advisor] with FCCLA. She is amazing,” senior Rachel Olson, current FCCLA president and former chef student of two years, said. “She’s very organized, she makes everything so fantastic and relatable, and she really makes things interesting. [Walton] is constantly coming up with new ideas and making sure everyone is involved. She’s just a great teacher, great advisor and a great person.”
After about a decade of time spent at MTHS, Walton’s time is officially coming to an end. Walton is a teacher by day but more than anything else, she is a mother to now two boys, ages 3 and 1.
That, she says, more than anything else, is the reason behind her decision to leave.
According to Walton, she is able to take three years off to take care of her children. She likely won’t be coming back to MTHS after those three years, not because she doesn’t love the job that she had, but because she lives in Lake Stevens. Walton said that on certain days, when the traffic gets bad, it can take up to an hour and a half to get to MTHS.
“This job is really hard,” Walton said. “I felt like I was able to do it fantastically without children, okay with one kid, and now I’m doing fine, but I feel like my kids are suffering because I’m putting all my energy and effort here, and then when I get home I’m like a shell of a person who has nothing left to give her kids. I don’t feel like that’s fair to them.”
Principal Greg Schwab, a parent himself, admires Walton for her decision to leave work for her kids.
“Being with your kids when they’re little is very important,” Schwab said. “You don’t get that time back. It’s a personal choice that she’s made, and I really respect it and I’m really happy that she is making it. It’s right for her, and she needs to be respected and applauded for doing that.”
But as she prepares to become a full-time mother, she is bracing for the withdrawals that will come from leaving.
“I do something different every day. Every period is different,” Walton said. “I love that. I get to come to school every day and my actual job is I get to cook with kids.”
Even more than that, Walton will also miss the school and the students at Terrace.
“I love high schoolers because they can carry on a conversation and it’s an interesting conversation, and I like talking to kids and seeing how their brains are working, things that you couldn’t do with elementary school kids. I’ll miss the creativity and innovation that can come from them,”
Walton said she also will miss the community but at the same time, the community will also miss her.
“I love [Walton] so much,” Kimberly Nelson, fellow Family and Consumer Science teacher, said.
“She’s realistic and fun at the same time. She is a realistic hard worker so she has everything ready on time and is easy to work with, but she doesn’t make things big and obnoxious.”
Walton has made sure to leave Terrace in good hands. For the past two years, Walton has been working with Emily Evans, who works currently one period at MTHS and four periods at Lynnwood High School.
“[Evans] reminds me a lot of [myself],” Walton said. “She’s super fun, energetic and she has a lot of knowledge. She has more knowledge of the food industry than I do, so she should be better than me. She hasn’t had the opportunity to have a classroom of her own yet just because of the politics of how education works, so I’m really excited for her to take over the program and put her stamp on it.”
After this year, Evans will flip-flop her schedule, teaching four classes here as the primary chef teacher and then teaching one class at Lynnwood as their secondary chef teacher.
“[Walton] will be greatly missed,” Evans said. “I don’t think people understand the impact that she’s had on [MTHS]. Those are big shoes to fill. It’s very nerve-wracking, but I’m excited to try something new. At your sixth year in teaching, why not try something totally new?” Η