Local Schools

From Culinary Arts to “School Mom” – Anna Clay Prepares Her Students for Life

Teachers prepare students for much more in life than the subjects they teach each day. They spend so much time around their students that they get to know them, in many ways, like their own children.

Anna Clay is the Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Tourism teacher at Mortimer Jordan High School. She is also the prom sponsor and FCCLA sponsor.

When your students call you their “school mom,” that’s special.

“There are several special moments but for me it is when they come to me and call me their “school mom”. It tells me they need someone to help them, listen to them and just love them for a minute without the worry of the curriculum that needs to be covered.”

It shows the impact Anna makes each day in the life of her students, and Anna is a wonderful example of why we celebrate teachers.

Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?

Anna Clay: Education and the teaching profession is something that I have always felt led to. I grew up in the Center Point/Pinson area and graduated from Pinson Valley High School. My dad, Mike Dutton, was a teacher and basketball coach at PVHS for seventeen years. He was in education for over forty years being a teacher, administrator and coach. I have always admired the relationships he built with his players and students.

My mother, Peggy Dutton, also worked in education for twenty seven years as a school office assistant. A lot of my childhood was spent at a school or in a gym! It was what I knew and when I decided that was the career path I wanted to pursue, I attended the University of Montevallo where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences Education.

This allowed me to teach what most people know as Home Economics. I have been teaching in this field for fourteen years and truly enjoy being able to teach “life skills” for our students. Since then, I have obtained my Master’s degree in Secondary Education and School Counseling. My career started at Irondale Middle School where I taught for five years before I moved to North Jefferson Middle to be closer to home. I was then fortunate to move to the high school level at Mortimer Jordan.

My husband Brantly and I met at The University of Montevallo and have been married for ten years. We live in Kimberly with our two children, Mally and TJ.

Treye Hanner: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

Anna Clay: My favorite part is the relationships I have made with my students over the years. I have known some of them since they were in the sixth grade and to now have them as seniors has been so fun to watch them grow and develop into young adults. I love getting to know their parents, their interests and plans for the future.

It is one of the most rewarding feelings to watch them walk across the stage at graduation in May!

Treye Hanner: Are there special moments where you say to yourself, “this is why I teach?”

Anna Clay: There are several special moments but for me it is when they come to me and call me their “school mom”. It tells me they need someone to help them, listen to them and just love them for a minute without the worry of the curriculum that needs to be covered.

Another special moment for any of us Family and Consumer Science/Culinary teachers is when our students come back and tell us they made a certain recipe at home for their family. We love to know that they can provide in some way for themselves and their family!

Treye Hanner: What challenges have you experienced while having to teach through the pandemic?

Anna Clay: The biggest challenge for me was trying to cover culinary standards while we were remote learning. It was difficult to have students work on certain skills and cooking techniques when we were not together in a classroom kitchen lab. It definitely showed the importance of the students being physically present in the classroom and how much more they get out of lessons/activities.

I also struggled getting to know the students and building those relationships when we were not face to face every day. It was a huge challenge to be able to check on their well-being and we are still seeing the effects of last year on many of our students.

Treye Hanner: What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?

Anna Clay: That majority of teachers think about their students almost as much as they think about their own children! There are many nights we go to bed thinking about our students and pray they are safe or replay a conversation or situation that we might have done differently. We as teachers are not perfect and make mistakes, but we genuinely love our students and always want to see them be happy and successful.

Southfork Publishing, LLC, the publisher of The Gardendale News, is launching an online magazine for teachers, called Jefferson County Teacher. Teachers and staff can sign up for our free email newsletter on our website for  Jefferson County Teacher.