An Upper School Math Teacher’s Labors of Love

An+Upper+School+Math+Teacher%27s+Labors+of+Love

image1On one of the last days of their classes at Hockaday, Mathematics Department Chair Jeri Sutton celebrates her advisory’s college decisions and departures with one of her elaborately decorated cakes, this one modeled after the map of her advisee’s college locations that her advisees have been adding to on her white board over the past couple of months. Complete with small, collegiate pennants along the border next to the girls’ frosted names, Sutton’s cake represents each girl’s success at Hockaday and her future.

This is certainly not Sutton’s first celebratory cake. Sutton’s love for decorating began at a young age when she made a castle themed birthday cake for her friend.

“When I was in ninth grade my very best friend had never had a birthday cake, and that was my first experience of making one,” Sutton said. “I made her the cake, and she was so touched that she just sat there and cried and cried and cried and it made me realize how much it meant to her.”

Since then, Sutton has honed her skills through cake decorating classes at Cake Carousel and continues to try to create pieces that will touch those around her.

“When I am inspired, I like to create something for someone that makes them happy because it brings back those memories,” Sutton said.

Whether with her individually themed birthday cakes tailored to each of her advisees interests, or to commemorate school milestones, like seniors receiving their graduation dresses, Sutton often celebrates her students.

20150114_095712_resizedSenior Frances Burton, who has been in Mrs. Sutton’s advisory for four years, has seen and tasted many of Sutton’s celebratory confections over the years. As for her personally inspired birthday cakes, Burton has received a soccer themed cake, a german chocolate cake to combine of some of Burton’s favorite flavors, a chocolate covered strawberry cake and a cookie dough cake to cater towards her love of cookie dough. Besides adding to festivities, the cakes have allowed Burton and the rest of her advisory to get to know Sutton on a more personal level.

“[Baking cakes] is something that is important to her and then she shares that with us, which kind of builds our relationship,” Burton said.

For Burton, Sutton’s dedication to their cakes also shows how much she cares.

“A lot of times it is a multiple day process to put the cake together and I think it just kind of shows that she really cares about as more than just passerby’s in life,” Burton said.

Sutton’s labors of love do not stop at advisees. She has made cakes for other students as well as some important cakes, such as for bridal showers and even a wedding, for fellow faculty members in the Hockaday community.

Upper School Science Teacher Brandi Finazzo experienced Sutton’s decorating expertise and ambition to make those who receive her cakes happy when she asked her to make her gender reveal cake for her second child. While talking about how she and her husband wanted to reveal the gender of their baby to themselves, family and friends through one of these cakes during lunch one day, Finazzo asked Sutton if she would be willing to help make it after noticing how excited she was getting about the idea.

“I asked her right then if she would do me the honor of making me one of her famous cakes!” Finazzo said. “She said her mind was already reeling with ideas on how to do it and make it extra special. Seeing someone so excited about my gender reveal party, who wasn’t even a blood relative, was so cool and heartwarming.”

IMG_1795To decorate the cake, Sutton created two bears, one boy and one girl, to place on top and covered the rest with multicolored buttons. She filled the center with pink candy pearls that would spill onto the table after cutting to reveal that the baby would be a girl, all the while keeping the gender a secret from Finazzo.

For Finazzo, having a faculty member be such a large part of her special baby celebration helped make the experience a special one.

“It was so special to have another faculty member do this for us because it just proved once again the strong and loving community we have here at Hockaday,” Finazzo said. “The faculty truly are a special and unique kind of family and Mrs. Sutton is just one of several inspiring and warm ‘mother figures’ that exist in that family.”

Sutton continues to make her cakes as a form of stress release, but also because of reactions like her friend’s, Burton’s, and Finazzo’s.

“[My favorite part is] making someone happy and knowing that somehow my creation has put a smile in their heart,” Sutton said.


-Megan Philips