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UW-Stevens Point graduate teaching life skills through family and consumer sciences education

December 16, 2022
Ryan Lehman took his love of cooking and learning and turned it into a major in family and consumer sciences education at UW-Stevens Point. He graduates on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Ryan Lehman took his love of cooking and learning and turned it into a major in family and consumer sciences education at UW-Stevens Point. He graduated in December 2022.

Ryan Lehman didn’t plan on following in his parents’ and grandmother’s footsteps. The Crandon native knew their occupation had its challenges and long hours.

Yet this month, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point December graduate begins a job teaching middle and high school FCS classes for the New Glarus School District.

His parents have been totally supportive of his decision to join the “family business,” he said. His mother, now retired, taught FCS in Crandon, his dad teaches middle school in Crandon, and his grandmother was a kindergarten teacher in White Lake. His parents and grandparents attended UW-Stevens Point, and his mom completed her student teaching at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, where Ryan completed his own student teaching.

“It feels very full circle for me,” he said. “I chose to major in education because of my personal values as a lifelong learner. My parents instilled it in me. There isn’t a day as a teacher that you aren’t learning. You learn from your students.”

When Lehman first arrived at UW-Stevens Point he planned to study data analytics. Finding that it wasn’t a good fit for him, he looked inward. As the youngest of four siblings, he recalls spending many hours in the kitchen with his mom, and enjoying cooking. Now when he visits home, he cooks for everyone. He also served as a cook at a golf course for four summers.

“I looked at my interests – cooking, human development and the way that people grow throughout their lives. I also knew that FCS was an option from my mom’s teaching.”

He attended a meeting of the Stevens Point Association of Family and Consumer Sciences student organization and within a week declared an FCS major. His professor, Susan Turgeson, coordinator of the FCS program, encouraged him to take leadership roles in the group. He has since served multiple roles, including president and vice president.

Lehman’s proudest accomplishment was reestablishing the UW-Stevens Point chapter of Phi Upsilon Omicron. This national FCS honor society includes members in a range of majors, including health, dietetics and early childhood education. His efforts at UW-Stevens Point earned him the Chancellor’s Leadership Award.

“Ryan’s leadership with SPAFCS and Phi Upsilon Omicron helped open even more doors for students to participate in leadership and service experiences and have access to scholarship dollars,” said Turgeson. “Ryan was able to think beyond the benefits to himself and create a lasting legacy. His work paved the way for the multitude of future students at UWSP.”

In addition to his FCS major, Lehman has minors in health education and business administration. He will be able to teach classes in health and financial literacy at the middle and high school level.

“What we really teach are life skills,” he said, from cooking and child development to home and financial planning. “Classes in family and consumer sciences build skills for a career as a chef or interior designer, yet these are skills you can also use when you have your own home, giving students a dual outlook.”

As a student teacher, Lehman loved knowing students in his cooking classes enjoyed the hands-on aspects and getting to eat the fruits of their labor. They learn technical skills, problem-solving, communication, kitchen mathematics, safety and sanitation, as well as how to bake, broil and sauté, he said.

“You can see the pride on their faces when they realize they made something that smells good and tastes good,” he said. “You see that lightbulb click on and see their eyes light up, and they want to keep going and keep learning.”

Lehman looks forward to teaching sixth through 12th graders at his new job, building relationships and seeing them develop skills as they grow from adolescents into adults.

FCS teaching has been a traditionally female field, and he hopes to break that stigma for his students.

“Everyone needs to learn to cook,” Lehman said. “While domestic science was once a stepping stone for women to have a career, there is room for everyone now. I hope to be a role model for young men, who can become the FCS educators of the future.”