Buerker has been teaching for more than 29 years, he said, first at Paul Smith College, than at a college in Pennsylvania and finally at SUNY Cobleskill. After winning Educator of the Year, his students are afraid he’ll leave them for another college, Buerker said.
But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Buerker’s favorite part of teaching is seeing his students flourish, he said.
“What bothers me the most is that I want to see every student succeed,” Buerker said. “But not everyone is cut out for culinary. It has taken me a long time to realize and accept that.”
One of the most rewarding parts of the conference was seeing former students who have gone on to be successful and are now members of the American Culinary Federation, Buerker said. One such student is now the corporation executive chef for Maine’s food service supply, he said. The two were able to reunite at the conference, where the former student recognized Buerker and said he owes a lot to the professor for everything he learned in his class.
In previous years, Buerker was named Chef of the Year of the Tri-Lakes Chef’s Association and also won six American Culinary Federation gold medals, six silver medals and five bronze medals in national and international competitions. In July, Buerker will travel to Kansas City to compete for the national title of Educator of the Year at the 2014 American Culinary Federation National Convention, he said.
Overall, the Northeast Regional was “very rewarding,” Buerker said. He enjoyed being able to network with fellow chefs and educators, get new ideas and discuss how to be better prepared for today’s incoming college students.
“Sometimes I just want to text them their notes,” Buerker said. “The labs are usually exciting, but in culinary lectures, particularly, we constantly are coming up with new ways to keep them interested and occupied, so they can learn and succeed.”