Educators Have Reason to Celebrate

As the year comes to a close, teacher’s are busy with grading final exams, submitting grades, reorganizing and shutting down their classrooms and saying good-bye to students. It’s a big push to the finish. For many ProStart and Hospitality and Tourism Management Program (HTMP) educators, it’s the end of an exciting year, and they took time to celebrate some of the big accomplishments together at the annual Teachers Luncheon.

Pete Mihajlov, one of the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation’s (HMEF) greatest champions, welcomed guests to Pittsburgh Blue in Maple Grove recently, where they enjoyed a delicious lunch along with conversations about what went well and where their programs are headed next year.

Educators representing the corps, from left to right, included: Steve Prigge (Sartell High School), Monique Sabby (Elk River High School),  Jerry Jensen (Cambridge-Isanti High School), Ben Rengstorf (Minneapolis Roosevelt High School), Penny Christy (BOLD ISD 2534), Mary Levinsky (Sauk Rapids-Rice High School), Krysten Dane (Glencoe Silver Lake Schools), Mike Keenan (North Metro Career Tech 916), Maxine Peterson (MN Department of Education, Family and Consumer Science), Hannah Rawleigh (North Branch Area High School), and Joan Wikre (St. Paul Public Schools, Como High School).

This was a big year for the programs of the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation and the educators who bring the programs to life in more than 100 Minnesota high schools. Some highlights include:

  • The HMEF received a $250,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to expand the program to more schools. Grants can be used to acquire curriculum and to cover eligible program expenses.
  • The Sauk Rapids-Rice High School Management Team took 2nd in the National ProStart Invitational in Washington D.C., after taking the top spot in the Minnesota ProStart Invitational.
  • The Elk River High School Culinary Team overcame a big challenge when 3 of their 4 equipment boxes went missing in transit to finish in 25th place at nationals.
  • Elk River sophomore, Natalie Thompson, was named Student Chef of the Year by the Minneapolis Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. She is only the second high school student, and now the youngest, to be awarded the title.
  • Roosevelt High School Culinary educator, Ben Rengstorf, was named Minnesota ProStart Teacher of the Year in March. In May, he was recognized at the national competition as the National Teacher of the Year by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.
  • Everyone was delighted to see Elk River High School ProStart Alum and award-wining chef, Josh Walbolt, serving as a judge at this year’s national competition!
  • Mike Keenan was named the State Hospitality Tourism Management Program Teacher of the Year. Mike started the program just two short years ago at North Metro Career Tech 916.
  • We awarded 11 future industry leaders 14 named scholarships totaling more than $27,000 to study hospitality and tourism management or culinary arts during the next academic year.

Educators and association staff also had the chance to thank Maxine Peterson from MN Department of Education and wish her well as she moves into retirement. “Max,” as she is affectionately called, has been a tireless guide, advocate and cheerleader for ProStart, HTMP and the HMEF generally since the very early days. We are very grateful for her constancy and dedication to these important workforce development programs.

The luncheon ended by looking forward to the coming year, and teacher trainings are just around the corner.

Thank you, instructors, for all you do. We appreciate how difficult these past two years have been, and we are amazed and inspired by what you’ve accomplished. We’re looking forward to another banner year in 2022-2023!

Learn more about the HMEF


Photo credit:  Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

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