The American Culinary Foundation (ACF) has named Eastside High School chef Pamela Bedford its 2021 Educator of the Year.
Bedford has worked at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Eastside for 14 years, serving as director for the last four.
Of the four finalists for the award, only Bedford worked in a high school setting.
“It means the world to me to be recognized as the top chef educator in the nation,” Bedford said in a statement. “To compete at that level, against post-secondary educators, was so intimidating and really fun.”
To compete, Bedford travelled to the ACF national convention, held in Orlando last week, where she had to teach a 50-minute lesson. Instead of high schoolers as pupils, though, Bedford taught an auditorium of top chefs and educators.
The ACF describes the Educator of the Year as someone able “to help students define and develop their careers by using their skills and abilities to provide a strong foundation for their future success.”
According to an Alachua County Public Schools press release, Bedford fits these qualifications, guiding hundreds of students to win awards, gain certifications and find jobs.
And those students returned the encouragement Bedford gave them while she was competing.
“My students compete a lot; I train them to do it,” Bedford said. “I encourage them, coach them, and hype them up, and they did the exact same thing for me. It made me fight for it even harder. I could not let them down.”