“Mr. Ben, he’s a great teacher.” That’s what you’ll hear one student declare in recent news feature on Fox 9 News. The Mr. Ben she is talking about is Roosevelt High School’s Culinary Arts Educator, Ben Rengstorf.
Ben has been a pioneer in the Minneapolis School District, convincing the administration to start the first ProStart program in the district in 2019. To prepare, he went to half-time in his role as an English as a Second Language teacher and, with the help of a scholarship from the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation, pursued a Culinary Arts degree at St. Paul College. Now, in the three years since the program began, the number of students taking the course each semester has quadrupled. And, they could keep adding more students, it’s that popular.
The strong strides Rengstorf’s made in a short period of time are getting noticed. In March,
Ben was named the 2022 Minnesota ProStart Teacher of the Year. Then, during the National ProStart Invitational in Washington D.C. over Mother’s Day Weekend, he was awarded the James H. Maynard Award from the National Restaurant Association, making him the National ProStart Teacher of the Year. ProStart is a program of the National Restaurant Association and, currently, 5,500 students participate in the program at more than 80 Minnesota high schools.
At Roosevelt High School, in south Minneapolis, Ben engages his students through the school garden to create “farm to table” experiences, as well as through food systems learning. He regularly brings a diverse array of mentor chefs and foodservice professionals into the classroom, fostering relationships between students and industry veterans that bring the benefit of mentorship that is a core dimension of the ProStart program.
His dedication to the program and its students doesn’t stop in the classroom. Ben has gone on to found a nonprofit, Roosevelt Culinary Arts (RAC), to support the program. He’s the first teacher in Minnesota to do so. RAC supports the students and their culinary activities and maintains a website and blog with culinary arts resource materials for the students and community.
As Rengstorf put it, “They are coming together as a learning community and getting job readiness skills and getting to eat what they learn. All of that is, I think, what makes the program a success.”
Learn more about ProStart.
Watch the news coverage of Rengstorf’s national award:
- Minneapolis culinary arts teacher wins national honor | FOX 9
- Minneapolis educator receives national award for culinary teacher of the year | KARE 11