During Career and Technical Education Month in February, the New Jersey Council on County Vocational Technical Schools is highlighting successful graduates of the county’s 21 vocational technical schools.
After graduating from the Salem County Vocational Technical Schools in 1998, Bruce Connell attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., graduating in 2001.
Connell worked in the food service industry, but always wanted to come back to his alma matter and teach. He got the opportunity in 2014 and became a pastry arts instructor at the school.
Throughout the pandemic, Connell has come to school to teach his craft to those students who selected an in-person schedule. He teaches about a dozen students virtually each week as well. Wearing a mask and making sure students are practicing social distancing, Connell guides his students to complete each assignment.
“It’s been a challenge,” Connell said. “Our priorities as teachers has certainly changed with this pandemic. “We want our students to learn and excel and be engaged in the program they chose to attend, but at the same time uppermost in our minds is to keep them safe and healthy.”
In the evenings, Connell is also a virtual instructor for Salem County’s B.R.I.D.G.E. (Building Relationships, Inspiring Dreams, and Growing Employment) program. It is designed for youth on probation, at-risk diverted youth and special detention cases in Salem County. It operates in partnership with the Youth Service Commission and Juvenile Detention Alternate Initiative.
Connell’s passion for pastry arts and teaching young people is stronger than ever and while there are, certainly frustrations and many changes that happen daily, Connell will continue to do what he loves best.
“I love teaching and I certainly understand and work hard to keep my students safe, but at the same time, I can’t wait until all my students are back in the classroom,” he said. “But until that happens, we are making it work the best way we know, one day at a time.”