Teacher Receives First of Its Kind Federal Commendation

Several times a week, fresh fruit or vegetables are delivered to Deborah Haiman’s kindergarten class at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology as part of a federal program. On a recent school day, Haiman’s students were lined up in front of her as she held up a pear and told them about how it grows from a tree and attaches at the stem. The students are encouraged to touch the stem and skin on the pear. Haiman described how it felt to bite into the flesh of the pear, what it smelled and tasted like and then asked the children to do the same, using all five of their senses.

But it wasn’t just Haiman’s students who took note of her presentation — the senior manager conducting a federal audit was also in the room. In fact, the senior manager for the audit was so impressed with the way Haiman was using the program to teach and encourage students, that he highlighted her in his report — the first time he had ever highlighted an individual during an audit and singled out a teacher for commendation.

Ms. Haiman was remarkable in her presentation of the fresh pears offered in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program on the day of the review,” the report said.

For her part, Haiman didn’t know the auditor would stop by her class, and she didn’t do anything differently that day.

The program is important because so many of Alexandria’s children are low income and the school provides two-thirds of the food they get in a day. With that sort of responsibility, they need nutritious options,” said Haiman.

The most surprising thing she has learned since the program started has been the willingness of the children to try “almost anything” — except when it comes to radishes.

They were not a huge hit, but a few really enjoyed them,” said Haiman.

ACPS was the first school division in Virginia to adopt a health and wellness goal as part of its divison-wide strategic plan. Since the adoption of the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan four years ago, ACPS has introduced salad bars and revamped its breakfast and lunch menus, as well as its snack policy to offer healthier options.

Deborah haiman's kindergarten tastes bananas in class
This is year one of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at Cora Kelly. It is also available at William Ramsay Elementary School. The two schools receive a grant from the federal government to provide a fresh snack three times a week. The hope is that students will be exposed to whole foods and possibly to some types of foods they may not have had a chance to try. At each snack time, it is hoped the teacher will provide a bit of nutritional information.

When Director of School Nutrition Services Cynthia Hormel stopped by Haiman’s class with the federal auditor, it was the first time she had been able to see the program in action.

It was exactly how we hoped to see it in real life. The kids were excited. Even if they weren’t willing to try the pear, Ms. Haiman got them to experience it with at least one of their five senses,” Hormel said.

The administrative review of the National Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Adult Food Care Program and Summer Food Service Programs showed ACPS to be successful with the following highlights:  

  • The team working in the newly renovated George Washington Middle School cafeteria were said to work well together, to be professional and to serve meals flawlessly.
  • ACPS meal documentation was recognized as being as error-free.
ACPS, ACPS 2020, Awards, Cora Kelly