In Morse’s culinary-arts program, the class is the internship.
“This is where they get their internship,” Smith-Piatt says, “because it’s not that easy for the students to get anywhere else. At San Diego High and Garfield [two other schools with culinary programs], you can walk across the street to get an internship. But there are no businesses around here.”
Not only do Smith-Piatt’s students run the Hungry Tiger Cafe and provide food to the school’s staff, but they also cater district events and sports banquets and provide cooking demonstrations around the community. Smith-Piatt estimates the range time spent on an internship at somewhere between 15–50 hours per month (times eight months) per student.
At Mira Mesa High School, on the other hand, instructor Eric Fischer says internships aren’t available for the students in his engineering program; local companies save these opportunities for college students.
“Unfortunately, it’s not the perfect little cookie-cutter,” McDonnell says.
If I had to go back to the old way, I wouldn’t
Even with inconsistencies between programs, most have their perks — not only for students but for teachers, as well.
“The days of standing in front of a class to teach are over,” Vandiver says. “If I had to go back to teaching [the old way], I wouldn’t do it. I’d go back to nursing. That’s how much I love it. ”
Zarate agrees. While the hands-on work he now oversees requires more responsibility than the sit-and-learn system he gave up when his auto facility opened, it is, he says, “much more exciting.”
For Smith-Piatt, “The most important part to me is the real-world application. Instead of ‘Why are we doing fractions?,’ it’s, well, you can’t do a recipe without fractions.”
There’s also her $36,000 computerized combination steam/convection oven. “This is my baby,” she says. “There’s even a button for Peking duck. And at the end of the day, it cleans itself.”
For more on this article, read author Elizabeth Salaam's Backstory