The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 1, 2012

She makes it look easy as pie

OTTUMWA — Students have been reading about people who had a challenge bring out the best in them. Now an Ottumwa High School reading class was facing a challenge of its own.

“You can coax it!” called out Beth Howard. “It’s not automatically going to go into a round shape. You have to take control.”

The students, most protecting their school clothes with a variety of aprons, were rolling out pie dough.

Their reading teacher, Patti Durflinger, had handed the class over to Howard, a former Malibu “baker to the stars” and author whose blog the students had been following.

“For the past two months,” said Durflinger, wiping the flour from her hands onto an apron, “they’ve been reading about people who have faced challenges. People react to difficulties in different ways. You can feel depressed, which anyone would, but then, they often reach a fork in the road, and have to make a decision. Are you going to be bitter or better?”

Meeting one of the authors they’ve read — Howard was widowed when her husband was just 43 — can help bring that writer to life.

“It creates more excitement,” said Durflinger. “Everyone we talked about learned from what they went through. And now they’ve come back and they’re giving to others.”

So too will the students. When they were done baking, they were to share the pie with someone who had faced their own challenges, or just someone important to the student. You don’t have to do it alone, either, Durflinger said.

In fact, the students were working with each other to make their pies. In some cases, the pie lady, Howard, was loudly “encouraging” students to work together.

“If you are done peeling your apples, help someone who is not,” she called out.

The kids were good about doing that, Durflinger said.

“Everybody just pitched in. It proves teamwork is a key... and they’re seeing how important working as a group is.”

But it was hard work.

“I thought it’d be easier,” said Isaiah Davidson.

“I thought it’d be easier, too,” said Nate Fogle. “My dad made a pie and he [made it look] really easy.”

Isaiah said Beth Howard could probably make 10 pies in the time it took him to get halfway through his first.

The kids were actually getting better as the class wore on. Durflinger said peeling apples was probably the toughest job for the kids, some who never had to peel an apple before. Not every important job requires a computer, Howard said.

“Reading can inspire so much,” said Durflinger. “Hopefully, this will solidify everything we’ve been teaching about, and inspire them to read more.”

Of course, between writing books and blogs, Beth Howard bakes.

If you’re looking for her pie stand, the Eldon Gothic House is a good landmark. Once you get to the Gothic House, stop. That’s where she lives. And writes. And bakes for her Pitchfork Pie Stand.  So she gets a lot of practice.

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