Beloved cooking teacher Ms. DeBona retires


Brooke Novak, Staff Writer

After discovering that her passion for cooking began when she was just tall enough to reach the stove, culinary arts teacher Liese Debona knew she had to pursue a career in the food industry. “I went to the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Home Economics which is now called Family & Consumer Science,” DeBona says. After waitressing and hosting in fine dining, managing the food service at University of Rhode Island’s pub she knew that she had to continue pursuing her dreams. She was also a general manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a trainee manager for 6 Hardee’s locations. She was a teacher at Middletown High School North for one year before she transferred to South.

“I feel life skills are so important to students and enjoy working with students,” DeBona said. This is the reason why she chose to become a teacher. Her advice for any incoming teachers was very inspiring. She writes “Be flexible and remember each student has a story.  Every student will succeed if you believe in them.” This is what helped her be the most successful teacher. “The success of my students and the pride they have after completing new recipes. The cupcake wars, iron chef and other cooking competitions bring excitement into the class. Student chefs come up with amazing presentations of their dishes,” she said. “Students preparing lunch for 100 senior citizens and teachers cooking for the Luau serving the staff. Working with students and the friendships of all the amazing teachers at South.” These are just a few of her favorite memories made while teaching. 

Some of her favorite dishes to prepare with her students are Chinese stir fry and anything Italian, because, as she says, who doesn’t like a great pasta dish! When asked what the hardest part of teaching was, she responded with something many could related to: “My last year due to Covid. Having students virtually and not cooking for most of the year was difficult. Although cooking assignments were given, students learn better hands on.  Knowing all the labs we could not do like past years was heartbreaking. My students’ positive attitudes helped during this past Covid year.” However, she was able to come up with new and innovative ways to keep the students at home happy, while allowing the students in her class to cook once they were allowed. She was open to giving students at home the chance to cook at home if they were all virtual. 

She also has some exciting plans for retirement, to not only take time to focus on herself but also help others. “Going to the gym daily, spending more time with family, especially my new grandson, traveling with my husband and trying out new recipes. I would also like to have a volunteer project – maybe in a hospital come September,” she writes. With these plans for the future, she is sure to have a great way to spend her years outside of the classroom.