Tina Castillo, Cafeteria Manager at Lamar Middle School
What attracted you to your job in the Austin Independent School District?
First and foremost I’m an Austinite, and also a family-oriented person. I was drawn to working for AISD Food Services because the hours that this department offered enabled me to spend more time with my four fabulous children. Also, growing up and spending time with my grandma Lucy in the kitchen, she taught me the passion that goes into preparing delicious meals.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I start my day at 6:30 a.m. by making sure all the equipment is operational. I check my phone messages to make sure everyone is coming to work. I get breakfast started, and make sure we are ready to serve the students on time. Then I make sure we are fully staffed, and lunch preparations for Lamar and Rosedale are on schedule. I must continually check to ensure that the cooks have all the ingredients they need, and I input food orders several times a week. I monitor staff and make sure we are in compliance with health department and federal child nutrition program regulations.
What’s the most exciting or rewarding aspect of your job?
The most exciting part is interacting with the children as they come through during meal service. I am able to brighten up their day by sharing a smile and encouraging them to make good choices. Some of the kiddos call me Mom! I love it. The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that we are offering healthy, nutritious meals for children, and that this may be the only meal for some students.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is trying to forecast which items students will select. This is important because it determines how much food to order and how much the cooks need to prepare.
How many meals do you and your staff members prepare for students annually, and how do you decide the menu each week?
Including breakfast and lunch, we serve about 550 meals per day at Rosedale and Lamar. This comes to approximately 100,000 meals annually. Our menus are created centrally for all middle schools, with the input of the Middle School Menu Committee, of which I am a participant.
What is your all-time favorite meal to eat and what is your favorite meal prepared by the cafeteria?
My all-time favorite meal, I have to say, is Italian food. My favorite food here in the cafeteria would be turkey and gravy over brown rice and steamed broccoli.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
The best advice I have ever received at work was from my mentor/manager. She said that if you always follow the rules and regulations, you will never go wrong. She was right!
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about a meal prepared by your team members?
We receive many compliments from students and staff throughout the year. Most commonly we hear, “The food was great.” They also say, “Keep up the good work,” and “Ya’ll are #1!”
Who was your favorite teacher growing up, and why?
My favorite teacher growing up was Ms. Teresa Castillo at Lamar Middle School. She always encouraged and taught with patience. She was never too busy to take time for her students. She was easy to talk to about anything. Now that I am a staff member at Lamar, I continue to see her dedication towards her students and the school. It’s so awesome to be around her again. She’s one of our faithful customers.
What are you most excited about for the 2012-13 school year?
I’m most excited this school year because the children are required to take a fruit or vegetable to complete their meals. I hope they will try new options and practice healthier eating habits at home.