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Positive attitude on the menu for cafeteria manager

Marie Beard holds up a tray of grill cheese. Marie Beard displays today's lunch for Forestview High School students.

Keeping a positive attitude is on the menu for cafeteria manager Marie Beard

Marie Beard encourages students to always keep a positive attitude no matter what challenges arise.  It’s advice that the cafeteria manager at Forestview High School knows well. 

Beard, who is serving in her 17th year as a cafeteria manager in Gaston County Schools, began her school nutrition career when her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Working in school cafeterias, she was able to have a job and still care for her family. 

Beard is familiar with the ins and outs of running a school cafeteria.  Graduating from Ashbrook High School in 1981, she worked at Hunter Huss High School as a cafeteria assistant.  She also has served as the cafeteria manager at North Belmont Elementary, Page Primary, and Hawks Nest STEAM Academy. 

While her day-to-day duties vary from preparing meals to delegating assignments and monitoring food safety, Beard says her favorite part of working in the cafeteria is getting to see the students. 

“It is a pleasure to serve meals for our students,” she said. “I love getting to interact with them and to watch them grow each and every day.”

It’s a trait that Forestview principal Crystal Houser says makes Beard stand out.

“Marie truly cares about our students at Forestview High School,” she said. “She and her staff work tirelessly to ensure our students’ nutritional needs are addressed, and she goes above and beyond every day for our school.  Best of all, she always has a good attitude and keeps a positive outlook.”

Houser said staying positive is important during challenging times such as the coronavirus pandemic.  She has watched Beard and her staff make adjustments to their daily routine – changes that have been necessary in an effort to always do what is best for students.  

All cafeterias in Gaston County Schools have a sanitation rating of at least 98 percent, giving them an A+ grade for making sure that meals are prepared in a healthy and safe environment.  Beard takes particular pride in the 99-point score at Forestview High School, knowing that she and her colleagues are looking out for the students and staff while preparing breakfasts and lunches.  It’s a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly.

Having served 25 years in local government and state jobs – Beard previously worked for the Gastonia Police Department for more than seven years as a telecommunications supervisor – she knows the importance of making a difference in the world around you. 

Beard is grateful that she gets to make a difference while managing the cafeteria at Forestview High School.  And as for her favorite meal?  That’s an easy one.

“The oven-roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans,” she says with a smile.