After nearly a half century, 100-year-old Beatrice Ray visited the West Side Career and Technology Center to attend a retiree luncheon in the newly renovated West Side Café.
Mrs. Ray began teaching at WSCTC when it opened in 1969 where she was charged with developing the Culinary Arts curriculum and the food service program. She continued to teach at the CTC for the next five years until she retired to her farm in Jackson Township.
After a meal prepared and served by current WSCTC Culinary students, Mrs. Ray shared that teaching never leaves you. She was still critiquing the students’ work as she had done when she was a teacher. She concluded that everything was beautiful and the service was outstanding.
She enjoyed the meal and service so much she made sure the retirees left a generous tip for the students. When asked what she liked best about teaching, she replied she loved that her students wanted to learn. She still sees former students working locally in various facets of the food service industry and occasionally receives greeting cards or a visit from former students.
Born on the family farm in July 1916, Mrs. Ray completed her teacher training at College Misericordia then pursued a degree as a dietician. Throughout her career, she has worked in food service, running cafes for educational institutions and industry.
She was proud when she recalled serving lunch to Albert Einstein at Princeton University. She was also proud of the work she and her WSCTC staff did in 1972 after the Agnes flood. Because the school was used as an evacuation center, the WSCTC Culinary and Food Service staff worked around the clock to feed displaced families and emergency workers. Mrs. Ray’s then co-worker, Geri Valatka, who also attended the luncheon, reminisced about how wonderful it was to work with the students. Valatka noted how excited everyone was as they prepared the room and the food for the first prom at WSCTC.
Today, Heidi Miller is in charge of the Culinary program and shares her predecessors’ love of working with the students. She says it is the students’ creativity, enthusiasm and ideas that make her job enjoyable and that is what has motivated her as a teacher for the past 18 years. Even though many things have changed over the last 50 years, what remains the same is that teachers at the WSCTC love to work with students to share their knowledge.