What’s cooking in quarantine? Social studies teacher and UFT Chapter Leader Johanna Josaphat streams live lessons for educators and students at the Urban Assembly Unison School in Brooklyn from her kitchen every Friday on Google Hangouts.
“It’s a passion of mine,” said Josaphat. “I like to cook, and it’s something I like sharing with my students.”
Josaphat previously taught cooking in the school’s enrichment programs, so when a colleague suggested offering skill development sessions during remote learning, Josaphat thought it was a natural fit.
“It’s something to break up the week,” she said. “It’s not talking about work or assignments. It’s an opportunity to learn something new, enjoy something, see themselves creating something.”
Josaphat shares the day’s recipe ahead of time and has collected her recipes into a cookbook, “Easy Cooking with Miss J,” for staff and students at the Clinton Hill school.
On June 19, Josaphat’s lesson was about making cherry hand pies because red foods are a tradition on Juneteenth, “a celebration of the freedom of enslaved African Americans in the United States,” Josaphat told viewers. “Food plays a very important role in the celebration of Juneteenth in the family and the community.”
She gave step-by-step instructions and frequently suggested substitute ingredients or alternative cooking tools. One tip she offered was that a round glass or cup can be used if a rolling pin is unavailable.
“Miss J loves a good hack,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be super complicated. You can always come up with a trick or a shortcut, especially when you’re working with kids.”
Rosie Orengo, a fellow social studies teacher, appreciates how easy Josaphat makes her lessons. “She uses recipes with like three ingredients,” said Orengo. “It’s so accessible to everyone.”
Teacher Meena Miller agreed. “She uses ingredients most people have in their pantry,” said Miller, and makes it possible for “students and even adults like me who are not the best cooks.”
But the best part is that the class builds community. “Since we went remote, a lot of the live time we spend together tends to be instruction- and lesson-oriented,” Miller said. “This offers down time with teachers” and a chance “to connect with each other.”