By Mike Marsee
Sarah Raikes found her niche long ago, and it’s just as comfortable today as it ever was.
Raikes is in her fourth decade as a family and consumer sciences teacher, a career she chose because of her involvement in a student organization that she says brought out the best in her.
Raikes serves as the adviser for Washington County High School’s Family, Career and Consumer Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter, which includes almost half of the student body and has been the largest chapter in Kentucky for the past 10 years. Her efforts were recognized by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), which named Raikes its 2017 Teacher of the Year.
As a student at Taylor County High School, Raikes joined the Future Homemakers of America – which became FCCLA – and worked her way up to a position as a state officer.
“I worked really hard and I got a number of opportunities. I had this drive, and that was the first time that I saw my drive make a difference,” she said.
The organization then known as Future Homemakers of America (FHA) gave Raikes a place to belong in school, and that experience inspired her to become an FHA adviser and give her students the same experience.
“That’s why I’m so passionate. We spend a lot of hours in FCCLA. It made a difference for me; it made me who I am today.”
“Sarah is an awesome teacher and FCCLA adviser. She is a true example of what family and consumer sciences programs do for families, careers and community leaders as she implements the FCCLA mission effectively,” said Reeca Carver, the FCCLA state adviser with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).
Raikes arrives at school early in the morning and leaves late in the afternoon. Many of those extra hours are spent working with students on projects or traveling to competitions and other events, which has helped her develop strong relationships with her students.
Alex Wharton, a Washington County senior and a regional FCCLA president, said Raikes makes a difference for her students.
“She’s good about making others feel like they have a place. She’s very caring, very passionate and loving. She’s like a second mom,” Wharton said.
Being an adviser might have been her dream, but Raikes has devoted herself to teaching as well.
“I’m very passionate about teaching, too. My students can tell you that I am rigorous, I have high expectations. I take my content very seriously and I take my hours in class very seriously,” she said.
“Sarah provides an outstanding program that includes a solid career pathway sequence where students earn industry certifications, participate in work-based learning opportunities and are actively involved in FCCLA,” said Kayla Godbey, KDE’s family and consumer sciences consultant. “Inside the classroom, she engages her students daily to ensure they are experiencing relevant, rigorous and real-world lessons and activities. She gives 110 percent to ensure that her students are learning and enhancing skills they will use in their future families, careers and communities.”
Raikes, who is in her 31st year in education, was part of a task force to develop national family and consumer sciences standards. She also served on a Kentucky task force to develop a college and career definition, which ensured that career and technical education programs were part of the state’s accountability system.
Raikes has seen the home economics classes she took as a student evolve into family and consumer sciences programs, and she has seen tremendous growth in the program at Washington County during her 18 years in the district. She was the only home economics teacher when she came to the school, and now she and fellow family and consumer sciences teacher Traci Blanford have a program that includes a dozen courses and three career pathways: culinary, early childhood, and family and consumer sciences.
“When you look at the content they’re teaching, from the foods classes to the relationships classes, it’s real-life material. It’s going to impact students not just when they’re sitting in those classes, it’s going to affect them for a lifetime,” Washington County Principal Malissa Hutchins said. “A majority of kids in this building, probably upward of 90 percent, take at least one family and consumer sciences course. That’s a testament to Sarah and Tracy and what they’re doing with that program that kids want to be involved and want to take those classes.”
FCCLA students are frequently involved in school and community events. They will lead the school’s Veterans Day program, and they used their culinary skills to feed 250 guests at a recent honors breakfast
“They’re very involved throughout the building and in the community. The community service they do is phenomenal,” Hutchins said. “It teaches the kids responsibility and leadership and involvement and a sense of community and pride within our school.
“You just look at the number of regional and state officers that they turned out over the years. Those students aren’t just leaders in our school, they’re going to be the leaders that come back into our community after college,” she said.
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