Her classes became more and more popular and now there are more than 300 students signed up for next year

Teresa “Terry” Rounds is the 2024 Teacher of the Year for Morgan Hill Unified School District. Photo courtesy MHUSD

By Kaylee Arca

The Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers gathered in May for its last meeting of the school year at Sinaloa Cafe in downtown Morgan Hill. Teresa “Terry” Rounds was talking with friends when her name was suddenly announced as Morgan Hill Unified School District’s 2024 Teacher of the Year.

“I was talking to my friends and all of a sudden my name was called and then my family came in, which was a shocker,” she said. “It was amazing. Sometimes, you think that you don’t get as much credibility when you teach an elective . . . It was a shock to be recognized as an elective teacher. But, the school has always been very supportive.”

After 15 years as Live Oak High School’s advanced foods and culinary teacher, Rounds is hanging up her apron for retirement. One of Rounds’ friends said she deserves the award because “she taught 36 teenagers with knives.”

The Morgan Hill resident will miss her relationships with Live Oak’s students and teachers.

“It’s just been home,” she said.

One thing she definitely will not miss: grading.

Rounds started teaching at the age of 50 and already had two teenagers at home.

She was previously a CPA, stockbroker, and stay-at-home mom before earning her teaching credential. Later, she became a paraprofessional educator for a student at Britton Middle School.

While at Britton, Rounds befriended the cooking teacher and ended up covering the class when the cooking teacher became ill and eventually passed away from cancer.

Rounds always loved to cook, and when the cooking teacher position opened at Live Oak, she jumped at the chance.

“I’m the accidental cooking teacher,” she said. “But I got to do what I love. So whenever you have a passion project, it’s just so much more fun. I never really liked being an accountant, but being a cooking teacher is just great.”

Rounds was not a traditionally trained chef, but she enjoys reading cookbooks and attended culinary classes at the California Culinary Academy and Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco.

Throughout her years at Live Oak, Rounds prided herself on teaching students about “adulting.”

In addition to cooking, the curriculum included money management, budgeting, etiquette, and safety and sanitation.

“My core belief is that what we need to do is get kids ready to take care of themselves and the people they love,” she said.

Rounds taught a two-class series. The first-year class studied food and nutrition. The second-year class was more restaurant focused with emphasis on advanced projects and cooking techniques.

“One of the nice things for me is if I had a student for freshman-year foods and then they come back as a senior for the culinary class, you get to see how they’re growing and developing as young adults,” she said.

Rounds welcomed students with all different abilities into her classes.

“I have some kids who are taking five AP classes plus foods because it’s comic relief,” she said. “And sometimes you’ll have kids that have a para-educator with them one-on-one because of their disability. But pretty much everybody gets along and does well.”

She loved watching students discover joy and feel successful in a project while developing knife and kitchen skills and trying a variety of dishes from around the world. The students often realized the importance of chemistry, fractions, measurements, and reading directions in cooking.

Chinese was her favorite cuisine to cook with the students,  she said. The classes made pot-stickers, sautéed orange chicken, and other Asian dishes like Japanese-style tempura fried chicken.

One very important lesson she learned during the course of her career was not to deep-fry foods with the first-year class because it is “terrifying and very messy.”

The foods classes grew popular thanks to Rounds’ years of dedication. More than 300 students have signed up for next year.

To kick off her retirement, Rounds plans to travel the world. Her first stops will be Japan in the summer and Italy in the fall. She plans to explore and eat a lot of amazing food to celebrate.

Kaylee Arca is a Morgan Hill-based freelance reporter.