Jean Garza Steed said she feels as though she’s the mother to 280 children. That’s about how many students are in sixth through eighth grades at Piedmont Middle School where she has been secretary for the past 12 years. Jean has been with the school system 20 years. She started as a teacher’s aide.

“I love the children and I love being with them,” said Jean. “I get to see them at an age when they start developing in lots of ways. They go through that puberty stage and start developing.”

Jean said the faculty and staff at PMS try to teach them about maturity, responsibility and accountability.

“We’re the stepping stone to the high school,” she said. “We try to teach them that when they get to the high school, they’ll need to be responsible. So much has changed since I was in high school in the ’70s, especially with the technology we have. They’re really getting structured for the high tech world of the future. That’s where we are.”

Jean said she’s proud to be associated with the Piedmont School System. All of her husband’s siblings graduated from Piedmont High.

“The school system has come such a long way over the years to now be on top,” she said.

Born in San Benito, Texas, near Brownsville, on the border, Jean grew up in Pensacola, Fla. She’s proud of her Mexican heritage. She moved to Piedmont 35 years ago from Pensacola when she married her husband, Sam. They met on a blind date.

One of Jean’s best friends lives in this area. She visited her several times and was introduced to Sam.

“My husband will tell you it was love at first sight,” said Jean.

They dated long distance for a year. Her father, seeing the seriousness of the relationship and the expense of traveling back and forth gave her some advice. He said, “Maybe yall need to do something.”

So they did. They married and Jean moved to Piedmont. She was a daddy’s girl, so it didn’t take long for him and her mother to move to Piedmont. Cristoforo and Dorcas Garza lived here until their deaths.

Jean loves her adopted hometown.

“Our town’s not perfect, but there’s not a town in the world that is perfect,” she said. “I hate that we’ve lost industry, but that’s a sign of the times. We just have to keep going forward. I think it will turn around. Everything goes through stages. That’s just part of life.”

Industry closings in Piedmont affected Jean and Sam. Sam had worked at Springs Industries 25 years when he was laid off. Jean said he enjoys his current job as custodian at Piedmont High School.

Jean and Sam have a daughter, Cristi, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., where she works in labor and delivery at Baptist Medical Center She is also a surgical technician and does ultra sounds.

Jean’s brother, Bill Carter, lives in Milton, Fla.

She and Sam are members of Piedmont Cumberland Presbyterian Church where she teaches a high school Sunday school class and works in the children’s church on Sundays.

Jean likes to read, sew and work outside with Sam. She said Sam is the cook in the family.

Soon after they married, Sam came home from work one hot summer day to some chili and Spanish rice that Jean had prepared. He told her it was too hot to eat chili, that chili is a winter dish. Jean told him that her mother prepared chili year round. Sam soon came to like chili in the summertime.

The Garza family’s bread was flour tortillas that her mother made.

Jean tried to cook southern food for Sam and, in the early years of their marriage, one day she fried some okra.

“I thought it was pretty looking,” said Jean. “It looked crisp and brown.”

Sam must have also thought it looked good because he put a big spoonful in his mouth only to find out that it was raw inside. Jean hasn’t prepared okra since.



  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup Crisco shortening
  • 1 t. vanilla flavor
  • 1 t. almond flavor
  • 6 eggs

Mix ingredients together. Add:

  • 3 cups of cake flour
  • 1/2 pt. whipping cream
  • Alternate ingredients

Grease and flour a tube pan. Preheat oven at 275 degrees and bake for 1 hour.

Change the temperature to 300 degrees and bake additional hour or until cake is

done by testing with a wire pick.


  • 1 cup white rice uncooked
  • 2-3 T. cooking oil
  • 1 - 8 oz can El Pato tomato sauce (found in Mexican section foods)
  • Cumin and garlic salt
  • 1 cup of water

Pour oil into frying pan, let oil heat, add uncooked rice and brown. Add cumin and

garlic salt while browning. Do not allow rice to burn or get toasted, just a light

brown shade.

Add can of tomato sauce, stir, then add water from same can, stir

once more. Let mixture come to a low boil. Cover pan and simmer on low heat for

at least 30 minutes. Liquid should be gone and rice cooked. Serve with salsa and

tortillas or whatever you like.


  • 1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 pkg. French’s Chili-O mix
  • 1 - 16 oz. can of Chili ready tomatoes, you can puree if you don’t like chunky tomatoes
  • 1-2 cans of chili beans
  • 1 can water

Mix ground beef and Chili-O mix according to package instructions.

Add tomatoes, beans and one can of water. If you want your chili a thinner

consistency add more water. We prefer ours thick.

Let chili cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve with

cheese, sour cream and add salsa if you like.


  • 10 lg. Jalapeño peppers
  • 1 roll hot sausage
  • 1 - 8 oz. cream cheese block
  • Sliced bacon

Toothpicks soaking in water while preparing. Cut peppers lengthwise; remove seeds. Cook and drain sausage, mix sausage and cream cheese together in pan until mixture is smooth. Spoon mixture into pepper halves.

Wrap half pepper with bacon slice, you may need to half the slice if peppers small. Cover the pepper completely with bacon and secure with soaked toothpicks. Place stuffed peppers on grill until bacon is crispy. Turn peppers frequently so not to burn.

Contact Margaret at