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East County Thursday, May 12, 2022 1 week ago

Restaurant event serves lessons to Tara Elementary kindergartners

Josephine Johnson's students run a one-night restaurant to test their math, science and social skills.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Joey Jobst, a Tara Elementary kindergartner, took his job as chef at the Banana Leaf Restaurant seriously. 

Wearing his chef's coat and hat, Jobst used tongs to carefully place spring rolls on plates to be served to family members of Josephine Johnson’s kindergarten class. 

“It was so adorable,” said Lisa Jobst, Joey’s mother. “Joey wanted to be the chef because he likes cooking at home, and he just thought that would be the perfect job for him. Since then, he’s been excited about cooking and wants to open his own restaurant someday.”

Josephine Johnson, a kindergarten teacher, is proud of her students like Joey Jobst for their hard work while working at their restaurant. Courtesy photo.

The Banana Leaf Restaurant, held April 29, is an annual one-night event run by Johnson’s kindergarten class.

Johnson started the Banana Leaf Restaurant with colleague Loreena Durrance in 2011 while teaching at Ballard Elementary School. Two years later, the pair moved to Tara Elementary School and started the restaurant once again. 

Johnson’s students become cashiers, servers, bussers, chefs and managers. On April 29 they served three types of soup and spring rolls. 

Angelica Pardo, whose kindergartner, Kai Tyquiengco, was a server, said she loved the idea. 

“I grew up through my teenage years working in restaurants, so I knew it would be a good experience for him to learn skills and learn how to be of service,” Pardo said. “It kind of melted my heart a little bit because it was such a big-boy thing. You don’t realize how big your kids are getting and then you see them doing something like that.”

Pardo said she noticed the kindergartners worked better together than some service workers she has seen.

“Honestly, they did a lot better,” Pardo said with a laugh. “I noticed that right away. I was like, ‘Wow, there’s virtually no complaining. Everyone’s cleaning up well, the service is really good.’”

Kindergartners Atticus Dubois, who is a restaurant manager for the night, and Cruz Eckert, who is a cashier for the night, prepare to open the Banana Leaf Restaurant. Courtesy photo.

Johnson started the event as a way for the students to learn about science, math, economics, social skills and more. 

The students grow produce in the school's garden that is used in the event. They learn to give the right amount of change as people pay for the meal. They learned social skills as they dealt with their customers.

“I loved getting to see the kids apply what they’ve learned in class to the restaurant,” said Bob Sloman, whose daughter, Brynlee, is in Johnson’s class. “It was fun getting to see her interact with her classmates because we don’t get to see that as parents. We drop them off and entrust them to the school. Getting to see them actually interact with Ms. Johnson and interacting with their classmates with excitement was really cool.”

Johnson said the $1,108 that the event earned in sales will go toward buying books to give to her students, math and reading games, and a new carpet for the classroom. 

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