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Teacher at Oxford High Leads By Example in Healthy Nutrition Class [Video]

Students learn; educator grows as teacher, shrinks as person.

When home economics teacher Randy Colin learned she would teach the Food for Fitness and Health class this year, her first thought was she better get in better shape and lead by example.

And that’s exactly what she has done.

“On that first day, I told the students, ‘If I were a student sitting in class, I’d be asking: Why is she teaching this class? She’s fat.’” Colin said with brutal honesty in a recent interview with Oxford Patch.

So the veteran teacher, who is affectionately known by her students as “Miss Randy,” decided to put herself on a healthy weight loss plan and start eating meals that she teaches her students how to prepare and cook in class.

Colin, a single mother of a 9-year-old boy, has been using the Weight Watchers healthy eating program for a year. So far, she’s lost an astounding 60 pounds.

Her ambitions are both educational and personal. Colin wants to feel healthier and confident, and she also wants to teach her students new ways to cook and eat for a healthy lifestyle, which the class of juniors and seniors discusses on a regular basis.

Colin begins each unit by reminding students that she is simply sharing information, not preaching to them or telling them how they should eat or shop.

“How they use this knowledge is up to them,” Colin said. “We’re teaching them how to eat well, and they can take that with them for the rest of their lives if they wish.”

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Students Get the Message

One student told Colin he had stopped drinking soda during the week.  

Senior Tiffany Nieves said she’s changing the way she shops for food based on what she has learned in the class.

Many other students ask for recipes, Colin said, and recently one asked for a tuna steak recipe with pineapple and mango salsa. (Editor’s Note: That sounds delicious and if I can steal the recipe, I’ll definitely post it.) 

Getting the students to accept healthy food alternatives has been a challenge, but nothing was more nerve-wracking for Colin than when she stepped on the scale for the first time in front of class.

When the machine indicated she’d lost 60 pounds, the elated students rewarded their teacher with a round of applause.

“What Miss Randy is doing is educational and it’s inspirational,” said student Dakota Swiski, an OHS senior.

During a recent class about carbohydrates, Colin discussed the difference between complex and simple carbs – simple carbs have natural sugars. Colin discussed how a healthy alternative to penne ala vodka might be to use whole-wheat pasta with Greek yogurt as opposed to butter or heavy cream. The students made that meal recently and charted the comparison:

  • The original penne ala vodka meal had 60 grams of fat per serving; the healthy alternative had 4.8 grams of fat per serving.
  • The original had 618 calories per serving; the healthy alternative had 320 calories per serving.

“We’re learning that there is always a different substitution that can be healthier,” said junior Rob Costigan.

Colin said the students reflect on lessons through writing assignments and that those reflections have been “so honest and inspiring to me.”

“They are so supportive, and are cheering for me all the way,” she said. “And they are learning; that’s all a teacher wants. …I really feel like this is a little family. The class that I originally felt uncomfortable teaching is now a motivator and inspiration for me. I have been rewarded in so many ways: my health, my growth as a teacher and my relationship with my students. They're great.”

OHS Principal Frank Savo said teachers do what is necessary to educate students and, in this case, “Miss Randy said she had to lead by example and has followed through. I commend her for that.”

At the end of class recently, one student asked what Colin’s ultimate goal weight was per her Weight Watchers plan? The answer: 138 pounds. 

“That’s right girls: I’m gonna’ be smokin’ hot!” she quipped giving a wink to her giggling students. 

Editor's Note: The food for fitness class at OHS has been preparing meals for volunteers at Habitat for Humanity in Danbury. The students will deliver those meals today.

Paul Singley April 27, 2012 at 11:11 AM
Miss Randy is a wonderful teacher and clearly representative of the many great teachers in the Oxford school system.
Will Wilkin April 27, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Nothing is more inspiring than a teacher who really believes in what they teach.
Carol Silkoff April 27, 2012 at 12:13 PM
She is an amazing role model love her!
Sue Martovich April 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Miss Randy, use your experience to set a standard for other students, maybe take it a step further and start a vegetable/herb garden that the students can maintain, Perhaps students and/or community groups can carry it on as a summer project, Herbs can be dried and used in your culinary, vegetables grown can be purchased by town residents or local restaurants. We all need to step it up and eat healthier! Keeps the medical expenses down!
oxford native April 27, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Wow! Can I go back to school and take this class? I can't belive she weighed herself in front of a class of teenagers. This is so inspiring. I hope teachers from other towns, have a chance to read this article. She is a role model for other teachers, and for kids too.
Jess April 27, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Sounds like she has a good relationship with her students. I can definitely feel her passion through your article Paul. This should be on the news so everyone knows about it. I know losing weight is frustrating, not to mention the added pressure of weighing yourself in front of other people. I thought the "smokin' hot" comment was great. She seems like a cool teacher.

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