With 31 years under his belt as a bakery educator, Norman Myerow shows no signs of slowing. Myerow’s baking and pastry students at Minuteman Tech, Lexington, Mass., have won 17 medals in the SkillsUSA VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America) national competitions, including another gold medal in this year’s competition held last month in Kansas City, Mo. To attend the national competition is a feat for any student. Only one student from each state attends the national competition in the baking category, and only after he or she has passed the district and state competition levels.
“There are 280,000 members in SkillsUSA, and only 2 percent go to the nationals,” Myerow says. To put it in perspective, the state of Massachusetts has only sent one student in the culinary category in 30 years. Myerow’s baking students not only make it to the national competition, they come home medal winners.
“I’m an ultra-perfectionist, so I think they [students] find it easier in the competition because I’m so fussy,” he says.
Without advanced notice of what will be required of them during their eight-hour competition, the students at the national SkillsUSA VICA event scale, mix, prepare and bake six products and demonstrate cake decorating skills.
Myerow teaches with strict adherence to the rules, but also with patience and understanding for students’ various learning abilities and skill levels. If he needs to help a student after class or come in on weekends, he does without complaint.
“I teach baking like each one of these kids were mine,” he says. “I gave away a student in a wedding once. I’ll never forget that day.” Myerow grew up in the bakery business with his family’s three retail bakeries. He attended the University of Miami on a football scholarship, where he says he learned to love competition. He returned to his family’s bakery business after college for a short time before he earned the teaching position at Minuteman.
As an educator, Myerow stays current in his own education, earning a master’s degree in education, and participates in numerous trade organizations, such as the American Culinary Federation, Retail Bakers of America and American Academy of Chefs.
Myerow is seeing more students interested in the baking and pastry arts. His classes are full, and some of his students go on to attend top culinary schools, such as the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales. Many earn scholarships by excelling in the VICA competitions.
He keeps tabs on his graduates, noting that one became a chemist, a few have opened their own retail bakeries and others have signed on at major hotel chains. He recently received a call from the proud parent of a former student who was chosen employee of the year by the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston after being on the job only one year.
“That’s the real thrill...putting them to work,” Myerow says. “It’s been a real dream working with these kids.”