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Interview with the Cooks

posted Apr 26, 2017, 7:18 AM by Travis Redden
            The education support professionals who work at the Brownstown Community School District work tirelessly to help make our buildings better.  Their interactions with students are priceless when it comes to fostering relationships and providing educational opportunities.  Recently, the school publications class visited the cooks to discover a little more about these three important ladies and even took a guided tour of the kitchen.  This is what we learned.   

Karen Portz has been a cook at the the Brownstown School District for nineteen years.  She is head cook and is responsible for ordering all food and laying out meal plans. Her favorite meal to cook is turkey and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, and fruit and the hardest meal to make is nachos because they have to prepare over eighty pounds of beef. In October, Karen sends the state a list of how many kids eat in the cafeteria. The state grants the school money for the entire year based on enrollment. Karen takes out two to three thousand dollars just for fruits and vegetables with that money. The state also mandates what is being served in the cafeteria by requiring healthy options such as whole grain breads, beans, red vegetables, and green vegetables.  The students must have half a cup of fruits or vegetables on their tray every day. We also learned about her personal life.  Karen is married to Dave Portz, a bus driver at Brownstown, who also works at Red Hawk Propane and farms on the side.  Together they have a thirty year old son, twenty six year old daughter, and a three year old grandson. She went to school at Brownstown High School.  After high school she went to work in the pencil factory until it closed, then she started to sub at Brownstown until she became a cook. Her favorite thing about her job as a cook at Brownstown is seeing all the little kids and how happy they are everyday.  Also, she loves having summers and holidays off to spend with family.


Another cook students had the opportunity to meet was Diane Smith. Diane’s greatest accomplishment in life is having her family and being able to go on mission trips. She recently went to Kenya for one of the most amazing and grateful experiences of her life.  Her family consists of two daughters, Amber who has three girls, and Chelsea who has three boys. Diane lives on a farm with her husband Gary. She is originally from Vandalia where she also graduated from high school.  Diane decided to become a cook because she loves working with young children and is able to spend summers with her grandchildren. She started substituting for three years in the kitchen before becoming a full time cook at Brownstown, and has now been here for fifteen years. Diane stated, “Seeing the student’s faces is what I like most about my job”. She enjoys preparing nachos because the students love the meal. The most time consuming meal for her is chicken fried steaks.



Nikki Sidwell is another cook at BCUSD and was born and raised in Brownstown, Illinois. She has two kids, Ryan and Breann, who also graduated from Brownstown High School. She now has five grandchildren that take up most of her free time. When she's not with her family she spends her Saturday nights at the Fayette County Speedway. When asked about her biggest accomplishment she responded with “ raising good kids”.  After fourteen years at Brownstown her favorite part of the job is always seeing the students come in with a smile.  Nikki’s favorite meal to prepare is nachos, because who doesn’t like the school’s nacho supreme? The hardest meal for her to prepare is turkey and noodles, but in the end the hard work is worth it.  We would like to thank all the cooks and all the education support professionals at Brownstown schools for everything they do. Their hard work is not the only thing we value, but the fact that they care about the kids and the food make Brownstown a great place to be.  


By the schools publications class


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