HISD culinary teacher named among top celebrities in ‘Cool 100’ list

Kellie Alcorn-Karavias is a culinary arts teacher at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center with a passion for teaching good nutrition to her largely food-insecure students. A lifelong passion for food and love for children motivated her to get creative with her curriculum and give her students real-world experiences with growing and cooking food that they could take with them into adulthood. Alcorn-Karavias’ unique lessons landed her on CityBook Houston’s Cool 100 list, an honor the magazine bestows upon only the “coolest” and most creative movers and shakers in Houston, and she and her students couldn’t quite believe it.

Alcorn-Karavias says her students were excited to see her named alongside such notable Houstonians as Megan Thee Stallion, Simone Biles, and Christine Ha.

“They think I’m cool, just goofy-cool,” she said. “But they’re really proud, too.”

Alcorn-Karavias was on a very different path in life before she developed encephalitis, a swelling of the brain. Recovering from her illness and enduring chemotherapy for ovarian cancer that was revealed during her encephalitis treatments, the young and successful graphic designer realized suddenly that her life and her time were precious and finite resources. Alcorn-Karavias decided that she needed to devote herself to something important, so while she was recovering, she earned her teaching certification and began working as an elementary school art teacher. Eventually, she incorporated her other passion, food, into her journey as an educator.

Alcorn-Karavias is the founder of The Cultivated Classroom, an initiative to plant and maintain vegetable gardens on school campuses and lead students in culinary instruction to lay a foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits and agricultural knowledge.

“I wanted to build a program where teachers from all over, whether they’re from HISD or other schools, can come to our school garden, sit in on a cooking class, and watch kids grow and talk about their food and tie that into their core academics,” said Alcorn-Karavias. “My goal and vision is to show people in urban settings that it’s not difficult to start gardens, whether it’s a small potted garden or large scale.”

Under Alcorn-Karavias’ instruction, Gregory-Lincoln students have planted 18 garden beds, a fruit orchard, and are raising chickens on campus for fresh eggs.

With more than 500,000 Houston residents living in designated food deserts, Alcorn-Karavias understands the importance of available fresh produce. In equipping her students with the knowledge and capability to grow and cook their own food, she is doing her part to combat food insecurity in the HISD community.

The Cultivated Classroom also includes visits from professional chefs and open, continuous access to their campus gardens so none of Alcorn-Karavias’ students will ever have to go hungry. The program has expanded to Hogg Middle School, and Alcorn-Karavias is hopeful that it will expand further in the years to come.  

Alcorn-Karavias’ lessons and the effect of comprehensive culinary education have cemented her “coolness” in the eyes of her students, but to her, that isn’t the most important thing about The Cultivated Classroom.

“I want kids to be able to have the opportunity to put a seed in the soil to grow,” said Alcorn-Karavias. “To harvest and tend, to share. To cook, and to feed themselves for a lifetime.”

To keep up with The Cultivated Classroom project, follow them on Twitter at @CultivatedClass, and to read about Kellie Alcorn-Karavias and the other Houston Cool 100, check out the CityBook Houston Cool 100 list.