"When you have kids handling flames and knives, it's nice to keep the class numbers small," the Area 30 instructor says with a grin.
While the number may be small -- 11 students divided over morning and afternoon classes -- the Area 30 Career Center's culinary arts class stays busy.
Between meals for local organizations, their Ivy Gallery restaurant luncheons and competition season early in the spring semester, activity is ongoing in the Area 30 kitchen.
Thursday's Christmas-themed Ivy Gallery lunch was a prime example -- a rush of activities for Birt and her six afternoon students.
North Putnam student Tyler Harris greets guests at the door, takes their jackets and shows the way to the dining room.
At the table, servers Tyler Piersal and Kodi Burchett, both Greencastle students, bring drinks and a tasty tomato bisque.
A peek behind into the kitchen reveals Eminence student Zane Wood managing the drinks while chefs Corbin Schick and Mikayla Guyer -- two more Tiger Cubs -- serve up the main course of baked ham, sweet potato casserole and steamed broccoli.
Of course, the flurry of activity at meal time is only a portion of the day. Birt's five morning students do all of the preparation of the meal, with the afternoon class arriving shortly before the guests.
After the guests leave, there is cleaning to be done, but also a payoff for the students, who can slow down a bit and share a meal of the leftovers from lunch.
"We get to sit down and eat like a family," Birt said.
The family moments are not simply at the afternoon meal, however. Birt employs the balancing act of any good parent in the restaurant setting as well, stepping in to help the students at necessary moments and stepping back for them to fly solo at others.
Besides the challenges of learning the many skills involved in culinary arts, Birt said simply stepping out of high school to learn something different is to be commended.
"I think they're brave kids, leaving the security of their home schools," she said.
If Thursday's meal was any indication, the students should also feel secure in their abilities as cooks.
The meal concluded with dessert, the delicious choice of triple-layered chocolate torte, pumpkin roll, red velvet cake or snowball cake (only one?) followed by young Mr. Harris at the cash register and helping with coats.
And for a cost of $10.75, diners have not only enjoyed a warm holiday meal on a chilly day, they've invested in the future of some promising young chefs.