LINCOLN (SNR) - Paula Wagner, manager and head cook at St. John the Apostle School in Lincoln, was awarded the state’s 2016 Manager of the Year Award by the national School Nutrition Association.
The award, in honor of Louise Sublette, recognizes school nutrition managers for the contributions they have made throughout their careers. Sublette operated school nutrition programs in Tennessee and for the SNA during her 43-year career, in numerous areas of food service at public schools, colleges, hospitals, and for the elderly.
Wagner started her food service career in 1985 at Sacred Heart School in Lincoln. Then she moved and continued to use her cooking skills in Vilonia, Ark., where she cooked and served 1,500 meals a day for three years. Coming back to Lincoln, she returned to Sacred Heart and later added St. John School to her résumé. She was head cook and manager of both schools until she went to work exclusively for St. John in 2008.
Rosie Polak, head cook and manager of St. Teresa School in Lincoln, has known Wagner for more than 15 years. It was Wagner’s willingness to help others that led Polak to nominate her for the award.
“Paula would do anything to help you out,” Polak said. “She is a great advocate of school lunches. She is a terrific mentor to anyone in the school lunch program, from old-time employees to new ones.”
Wagner’s willingness to help is something St. John principal Dennis Martin sees in her.
“She cares about the kids, the staff, parents and everyone she works with,” Martin said. “She does the little extra things to make things better. She is a leader in her field and is willing to help anyone that asks. She accepts a challenge and finds solutions.”
When Wagner learned about the award she said she was both shocked and honored.
For now she’ll go back in the kitchen and keep serving the hungry kids, and helping her fellow cooks and managers, and anyone else in need.