Lerseth receives ProStart Educator Award The South Dakota Retailers Association announced that Ilene Lerseth of Vermillion High School is the South Dakota 2009 ProStart Educator Excellence Award Recipient. Lerseth has been invited to join 30 other top educators in Chicago, IL for the National Restaurant Association's ProStart Educator Excellence Awards from May 15-16. Ilene Lerseth was the first teacher to implement the ProStart curriculum in South Dakota. The program includes instruction pertaining to business management and culinary skills, as well as internships in the foodservice industry. Teaching for over 25 years, Lerseth says, "I wouldn't have thought a new new program would have made such a big impact on my teaching career, but ProStart is different from the other classes I teach. Because of the certification tests and the internship components, I feel more like a coach, working beside my students and cheering them on, than the more traditional teacher role common in my other classes. ProStart stands out because of the accountability required of the students, the mentor role I have with my students, and the direct application there is to the foodservice industry." The South Dakota Retailers Association coordinates the ProStart program in South Dakota with assistance from the South Dakota Department of Education and the South Dakota ProStart Advisory Committee. Shawn Lyons, executive director of the Retailers Association, says Lerseth and other ProStart educators are teaching valuable skills to their students. "While ProStart was developed by the National Restaurant Education Association Education Foundation and focuses on the food service industry, the students who participate in this program are learning leadership and management skills which will be beneficial no matter what career path they choose," Lyons noted. "Our ProStart educators are leading the way in preparing students for exciting and rewarding careers, and Ilene Lerseth represents the best of ProStart in South Dakota." The National Restaurant Association's Educator Excellence Awards recognize exceptional educators who use the ProStart program in their classrooms. Nationally, each state is asked to nominate its leading educator who has demonstrated a commitment to their students and to the ProStart program. As part of their award, the educators will be flown into Chicago and hosted by the Association from May 15-16, 2009. The weekend activities kick off with an opening reception on Friday evening at Buca di Beppo. On Saturday, the educators will take part in the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's Michael E. Hurst Educational Forum, networking with other educators and industry representatives. They'll be recognized at the forum's luncheon, and following the luncheon, will take advantage of a complimentary ticket to the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show. Nationwide, 78,000 students in 47 states, territories and districts are served by ProStart, a two-year curriculum that blends classroom learning with mentored work experience to teach high school students the management and culinary skills needed for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry. When students meet academic standards, complete a checklist of competencies, and work at least 400 hours in the industry, they are awarded the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement that signifies they are well qualified to enter the industry workforce. For more information on the ProStart program and National ProStart Invitational, please visit www.prostart.restaurant.org <http://www.prostart.restaurant.org/>.