James Merritt, Child Nutrition, Walker Upper Elementary School
James Merritt, Child Nutrition, Walker Upper Elementary School
How do you support student learning from outside the classroom?
At Walker, the kids are learning to use the bell system, which requires personal responsibility for being in the right place when the bell rings. If I notice a child that is late, I explain how important it is to be in class on time, ready for the day. I also encourage students to grab a breakfast since the first meal of the day is the most important.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
Most think that as nutritional workers, we are strictly responsible for the meals that come out of the kitchen, but cooking is just one part of what we do. We interact with the students to ensure that all students’ accounts have funds, to make sure everyone is staying safe, and to make sure that children are not exposed to any food that they may be allergic to. We want to see all students succeed at all levels.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Getting the students to eat their two meals (breakfast and lunch) can be difficult. At this age (fifth and sixth grade), kids definitely know exactly what they like and what they do not like. We serve a wide variety of options for our vegetarians and picky eaters.
Why did you choose to perform your job in the schools and not in another industry?
I’ve worked in a number of fields, but the feeling you get when seeing these children’s faces every morning tops any other job. Knowing that I have a part in their success makes me and the whole staff work even harder. Creating good student relationships leads to trust and respect. We enjoy the students’ company in the cafeteria.

For the next few weeks, to learn about the role support staff plays in the schools, Dexter Auction’s Meet Your Educator profiles will feature non-teaching professionals.