Thank a Teacher

By: Shannon Smith | Category: Restaurants | Issue: October 2020

cannot imagine the struggles of being the parent of school-aged children this year. Whether you’re attempting the task of homeschooling your children or trusting the brave teachers in our schools, I can’t help but appreciate every effort made to educate our children in such a strange and stressful time. I was fortunate to have some wonderful teachers when I was growing up, and they had a huge impact on my life.

When I was in third grade, I was bullied on the playground and told by my classmates that I couldn’t play on the swings because I had fat cheeks. My teacher, Miss Ruff, saw me crying and took me to the steps in front of our classroom. She told me that I can’t change the behavior of other people and the way they treat me, but I can choose friends who are kind and treat others like they want to be treated. Miss Ruff had a powerful influence on the way I choose my friends today.

When I was in 9th grade, I met the woman who changed my life forever. Miss Craig was my home economics teacher, and I wanted to be just like her. She was confident, funny, and smart. She taught us how to sew, cook, plan a wedding, and many other skills. In 10th grade, she taught us how to make fried hand pies. I thought fried pies only came in packages called Hostess Fried Pies, which I was allowed to have on special occasions. I had no idea you could actually make them at home. Miss Craig was my home economics teacher for four years, and I use the skills I learned from her every day of my life.

The best teacher I ever had was my mother. Although I went to a public school, my mother taught me lessons every single day. She didn’t teach me reading, writing, and arithmetic. She taught me to be compassionate for the elderly when we baked cookies and took them to the nursing home. She taught me to keep my room clean because I should respect my belongings and take care of them. She taught me to work hard and to finish a job if I expected to be rewarded. If my chores weren’t done, I didn’t get my weekly allowance. She taught me to love other people, even if they didn’t love me back.

When I was in my 30s, I became a cooking teacher, teaching kids in a low-income apartment complex. The joy I saw on those kids’ faces when they learned to cook was a huge reward for the efforts I made to teach them what I knew. Years later, I’ve heard from several of those kids who now love to cook because of the lessons I taught them.

If you’ve known a teacher who had a positive impact on your life or the life of your child, I encourage you to reach out to him or her. I wrote a letter to Miss Craig several years ago and told her how much she had impacted my life. Her reply was that she hadn’t heard from one single student over the 30 years she had taught. She said she had read my letter while sitting next to her husband in a hospital bed, and it lifted her spirits more than anything else that day. I also told her that I’ve never eaten a fried pie without thinking of her. I’ve created my own version of those fried pies, except I bake them instead of frying. I hope you’ll make them yourself, and if there’s one left over, take it to your favorite teacher.


Blueberry Hand Pies

Makes 8 - When I was in high school economics class, we spent two days making fried pies. At that time, I thought fried pies only came in little packages at the convenient store. I had no idea you could actually make them yourself. Although I love nearly everything fried, I prefer my hand pies baked with course sugar on top. Blueberry hand pies are probably my favorite dessert of the summer, especially when blueberries are ripe and sweet at the farmers market. They take a bit of effort, but once they come out of the oven, oozing with blue syrup you’ll know it was worth every minute. Be sure to practice patience, and let the pies cool completely before you serve them.



  • Pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 sticks butter (8 ounces), cold and cut 

    into 1/4” cubes

  • 1/2 cup cold water


  • 3 cups fresh blueberries

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • Zest of one orange

  • Zest of 1/2 lemon

  • Pinch kosher salt

  • Juice of one orange

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch


  • 1 egg

  • 3 tablespoons course decorating sugar

Prepare the pastry: In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, sugar, and butter. Pulse 20-25 times, until mixture is blended and resembles cornmeal. Slowly add the cold water while pulsing the food processor until the dough comes together. It’s important you do not over mix. Pour out dough onto a board and form into a ball. Divide the dough into 16 balls, approximately 1.75 ounces each. Place on a plate and cover with a towel. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a medium saucepan, add the blueberries, sugar, orange zest, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice and cornstarch until the cornstarch has completely dissolved. Add to the blueberry mixture, and continue simmering for ten minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let cool completely. (Filling can be prepared the day before you assemble the hand pies.)

To assemble hand pies, roll each dough ball out on a floured board until they are 5” circles. Spoon 1/4 cup of filling onto the center of 8 circles, then top each with another circle of dough. Press the edges with the tip of a fork to seal. Using a knife, cut three slits into the top of each pie to allow steam to escape. In a small bowl, beat the egg with a splash of water. Brush the tops of each pie with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the course sugar. Place pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Shannon Smith Profile Picture

About Author Shannon Smith

I’m Chef Shannon Smith, creator of, a website where I share my travel adventures, cooking experiences, jewelry creations, life stories, world travels, recipes, cooking classes, and jewelry art. In the past ten years, I’ve traveled to 52 countries, and I hope to add at least that many more over the next ten years. In every country, I am blessed to meet interesting people, learn new cultures, and try all kinds of delicious food. I take cooking classes, join food tours, meet with chefs, and often dine with people in their homes or restaurant kitchens. I’ve lived in Tulsa for over 30 years, and I love teaching people how to cook, especially dishes learned while traveling around the world. Some of my favorite cuisines are Indian, Moroccan, Turkish, Israeli, and Italian, although Indian is the cuisine that makes me the happiest. I’ve collected numerous recipes and methods for making delicious food, and I share those recipes on I teach classes several times a month when my travels allow. Those classes are advertised on the website but are almost always filled within hours after posting, so I also occasionally teach cooking classes to private groups. My readers and viewers get to learn about my cooking adventures, utensils and appliances. At last count, I have eight grills, two tagines, 22 knives, and ninety-four thousand serving dishes - at least according to my husband. My refrigerators are filled with nuts, cheese, and dried fruits I’ve brought from other countries. And my spice cabinets contain a menagerie of exotic and odiferous seeds, pods, and dried herbs that I use so many ways. Jewelry art is my other favorite activity. I create jewelry from beads and trinkets collected on my travels, including amber from Russia and Estonia, glass from Murano, Italy, paper beads from Rwanda, and old Yemen prayer capsules from Israel. I have an Indian friend who has some of the most beautiful semi-precious stones that he cuts into beautiful shapes. Several times a year, I attend national bead and jewelry shows where I search for unusual items to complete my creations. Many more adventures are planned for the future, and I’m excited to share them with you in my monthly column in Values Magazine, including recipes, cooking tips, interviews with my favorite Tulsa area chefs, cookbook recommendations, travel stories, my favorite local food trucks, and ways we can give our time and talents to our fantastic community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram at Chef Shannon.

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