Cook with Heart

Tawny Saldaña
Alumna, Culinary Arts

So, Tawny, you’re AWC Alum, what are you up to now?

I teach Culinary Arts at Cibola High School in Yuma.

Before you became a teacher, you were a waitress, right? How old were you when you began working in the food service industry?

I started working as a server at age 15 and I continued to serve for another 15 years at various restaurants in Yuma and parts of California and Texas.

Can you tell us more about that experience?

It was a challenging job. I have two kids and it was always hard work. I didn’t go to college right after high school. Instead, I got married and had kids at a younger age. When the restaurant I worked at closed suddenly, I knew I had to make a decision and better my life for my family—for my children.

And what decision was that?

I decided to go back to school to get my certificate in Culinary Arts while still working two jobs. With my AWC certificate and my industry experience, I was able to get certified to teach Culinary Arts in my community. I applied and was fortunate enough to receive a job working for Yuma Union High School District.

Did you always know you would be a teacher?

I never thought I would become a teacher, but now I have a rewarding career where I can pass on my love for cooking to youth. I love to cook, and I really enjoy baking. I never imagined it becoming my career.

What have been some of your proudest moments as a culinary teacher?

I actually started my teaching career at Vista High School, and while there, was able to bring my students to SkillsUSA. They brought home Vista’s first medal from a SkillsUSA competition. That is one of my favorite memories. I was so proud of my students and still am.

Do you have a message to others who may be in a similar situation as you were?

Through AWC’s certificate program, I was able to ensure a better quality of life for me and my children. I worked full time and was a full-time student while raising two kids. It’s the best decision I could have made.