Thanksgiving comes early to Brenda Cunningham’s classroom. For the past 18 years, she has hijacked the holiday to use as a teaching tool.
“It’s fun to cook, and kids need to learn how,” she said. “Cooking isn’t done in school any more. They need to learn those skills.”
A Designed Instruction teacher at Glover Middle School, Cunningham develops specialized teaching strategies based on each of her student's unique learning needs. They spent Wednesday morning chopping and slicing, mixing and dicing. They made butter from heavy cream in a jar by shaking, shaking and shaking.
By noon, the locker-lined hallway was cozy with the aroma of roasting turkey.
“Students create the menu,” Cunningham said. “Whatever they want – within reason – is what we cook.”
Pushing a few smaller tables together in the center of the classroom, students formed a communal table for their feast. To accompany the turkey, they had mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, trays of raw vegetables, corn on the cob, rolls and pumpkin pie for dessert.
Before they took their seats to begin eating, students turned to their classmates to share gratitude. “Thank you for making me smile,” one girl said.
Cunningham always holds her classroom Thanksgiving the week before the official day to give herself a breather. Despite all the planning and preparations, it’s a tradition she appreciates.
“This is our family, and this is what families do,” Cunningham said. “We do it for the kids.”