Lake City Secondary School teacher Caitlin Sabatino strives to create a safe and welcoming space in her classroom.
She teaches culinary arts, food studies and leadership, with 120 students enrolled in her culinary arts courses.
Whether her students are taking the courses because they want to or because they need the credit, she always wants to let them know they are welcome.
“Students today have a lot more going on now than students when I was in school,” she said. “Some are working 30 hours a week and have bigger issues to deal with.”
With those changing needs of the students, she has had to adapt the way she teaches to reflect those needs.
In the leadership class students are responsible for planning events in the school, such as spirit days.
They deliver fruits and vegetables to other classrooms, learn about public speaking, conflict resolution, healthy relationships and take turns leading the class for a lesson.
When its their turn to lead, the students can pick a topic they are comfortable with.
In the future, the leadership class will be doing some buddy activities with students at Marie Sharpe Elementary School, she added.
Born in Kelowna, she moved to Williams Lake with her dad and mom - Ken and Karen Day - when she was two-and-a-half-years-old. Now retired, her dad ran the UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest.
Her parents still live in the family home on Centennial Drive where Sabatino and her younger brother Morgan Day were raised.
Growing up she attended Poplar Glade Elementary School and then Williams Lake Secondary School, the campus she teaches at today.
After graduation she attended Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, pursued a bachelor of arts, followed by an education degree.
She met her husband Greg Sabatino at TRU. He was originally from Kamloops.
While completing her education degree she did a practicum in Williams Lake.
A few days after she finished the program in 2008, she popped into the School District to sign up for teaching-on-call and by September was hired to teach home economics at Columneetza Secondary School.
While in university she never imagined teaching cooking, she recalled.
“It was totally out of my comfort zone,” she said. “My mom always did baking and made good, home-cooked meals, but I was not super confident in the kitchen at first. When I first started teaching, mom would go grocery shopping with me.”
In 2013 she moved over to the Williams Lake campus where she has remained ever since.
“I like teaching,” she said. “I get to learn about the students, form relationships with them. Because I am not teaching academic courses I am not pressured to cover a certain amount of content. I like the hands-on nature of teaching foods.”
Aside from preparing food to sell at the Medieval Market, the culinary arts students have done a bit of catering for staff meetings.
Disappointed the cafeterias are closed at both Lake City Secondary campuses, she said she hopes in the future her students can be part of a program to make healthy food for school lunches.
“Students love to show off their creations in art and shop classes - food classes are the same.”
She finds it satisfying having students come back years after graduating to check in and let her know what they are up to.
She also loves to laugh with the students when they complain about being in high school and tells them she’s been in high school for 20-plus years.
Sabatino and her husband have two children - Mackenzie born in 2014 and Owen in 2018.
“I just registered Owen for kindergarten the other day,” she said.
Now that the children are getting older, she and Greg are busy chauffeuring them to various activities, she added.
“I also really like getting outside with my family. It helps me to deal with stress.”
Recently she has started reading again, which she not only enjoys but hopes will set an example for their children.
“You think you don’t have time, but I can sit and scroll on my phone for hours no problem.”