Meet Ms. Zina!
It is amazing how much of a difference those “behind the scenes” make in our children’s everyday lives. When I went to the Renaissance kitchen to introduce myself to the kitchen staff, I was surprised, and impressed to hear our kitchen staff, Zina and Donna, both not only know my children’s names but they both knew my children beyond daily pleasantries. Zina and Donna interact with all of our children each and every day and do so in a positive and loving manner. All of these warm interactions help to create the special culture we have here at Renaissance and we are so grateful for the work they do to make the school day run seamlessly.
Our Kitchen Manager, Zina Lech, had quite the journey that led her to be a part of the REMS community. Born and raised in Italy, Zina would be an excellent person to share travel stories with!
My story is rather interesting. I was born and raised in Capua, Italy. Capua is in the Italian region (sort of like a state) of Campania of which Naples (birthplace of pizza!) is the capital. Capua today is a town of about 19,000 people but our town has a history that is indeed fascinating. The town dates back to around 500 BC when it was founded by the mysterious, pre-Roman, Etruscan civilization (my own family has Etruscan roots). Upon being conquered by Rome, it became one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire on the famous Roman highway known as Via Appia that went from Rome to Pompeii. Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony (Augustus) further expanded the city which became known for the best gladiator school in the empire having none other than Spartacus as one of its “alumni”. I used to walk almost every day by the arena where the games took place.
I am the middle child of a family of three and had two Italian brothers to watch over me! I had a wonderful childhood spending a lot of time in the countryside and on the beach along the famous Amalfi Drive (many say it’s the most beautiful coast in the world) and the island of Capri with my family and friends. Later I traveled throughout Italy (Rome, Venice, Florence, etc.) where I developed a passion for the culinary arts. My family and I regularly go back to Italy every few years to visit my family, and our son John, studied at the University of Bologna as a college freshman. What an experience it was for John to study (and for us to visit) at the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088) which boasts alumni of the likes of Dante Alighieri, Nicholas Copernicus, Gugliemo Marconi, etc. My husband of almost 30 years, Leo, is a spacecraft design engineer for Lockheed Martin and gets to work on all kinds of fascinating projects. We have one son, John. John is a 2004 graduate of Academy Charter School here in Castle Rock, a 2008 graduate of Regis Jesuit High School, and a 2012 graduate of the University of Denver where he majored in International Business and minored in Italian (what else?!).
One of the values taught at REMS is how to live in a sustainable way with nature. If your child is interested in learning more about living off the land in a sustainable way, Ms. Zina would be an excellent resource as her family has been perfecting the practice for many years.
My number one passion is the culinary arts, closely followed by gardening, traveling, and the outdoors. We ‘farm’ an organic garden of almost 1/2 acre where after 20 years of trial and error, we have managed to grow almost every vegetable and fruit (including a small vineyard) despite living at 6,300 feet in elevation just west of Castle Rock along highway 105. I do a lot of canning and freezing of our produce that lasts us through most of the winter. We raise all kinds of poultry including chickens, turkeys, geese and have our own beehives as well. We pride ourselves on being as close to self-sufficient as possible. I love to entertain and we are in the process of completing our outdoor kitchen. My husband designed and built the wood-burning oven which makes the best authentic pizzas and breads just like they did in Pompeii over 2,000 years ago!
Like many staff members who began their careers outside of the education system, the desire to spend more time with family led Zina to take her passion for culinary arts and incorporate it into schools.
After spending some time in the very stressful restaurant business in the early-mid 1990s, I decided that I needed to spend more time with my family, so I took a job as a Kitchen Manager with Littleton Public Schools. Having time off when my son was out of school combined with still being able to use my culinary skills made it a perfect fit. I moved to Douglas County Schools as soon as a kitchen manager job became available as it was much closer to home.
After having been the Kitchen Manager at Academy Charter School for thirteen years, Zina was transferred to REMS to manage our kitchen. Zina has felt that the Kitchen Manager position has been a perfect fit, as it allows her to use her culinary and managerial skills to make a difference for our children. Zina has not only turned our REMS kitchen into one of the top performers in the district, Zina has been recognized for her work and has been awarded several accolades in the process.
REMS is an amazing place to work! The staff and parents are so supportive and have always included me as part of the REMS family even though I technically am just "assigned to" REMS by Nutrition Services. I appreciate that very much.
Thank you, Zina, for feeding our children in many ways … through an efficient and healthy kitchen and a personal smile and kind words to our children daily, we appreciate you!