A combination of passion and networking have enabled Lois Lewis to elevate the impact of family and consumer sciences and provide students in a quaint rural school with unexpected opportunities that equip them for the future.

“Many students come to Indus School for a second chance,” said Lewis, a family and consumer science teacher, “and part of giving them that is to provide new experiences to open up a world of opportunity they have may not have known existed.”

The Minneapolis native brought a unique culinary arts and management curriculum to the small northern Minnesota school. Indus School now offers the National Restaurant Association ProStart restaurant program that includes classroom instruction, work hours and certification for students in the South Koochiching Rainy River School District.

It started after Lewis heard from local businesses that they struggled to trained food service workers. The program is now one of 50  in Minnesota. Since 2010, about 90 students have completed the program at Indus School and many of them have earned the certification.

“Even if students do not end up working in a food service operation, they are learning how to prepare fresh foods for themselves and their families,” Lewis said.

MREA will honor Lewis as a 2018 Educators of Excellence at an annual awards banquet on Nov. 12 at Cragun’s on Gull Lake near Brainerd. The MREA Board selected the honorees based on their impact, innovation, leadership and collaboration.

“Lois goes above and beyond each day with her students,” said Laurie Bitter, Indus School principal. “She takes the students to competitions so they get that outside of our little school experience.”

During her time as a family and consumer science teacher at Indus School, Lewis has introduced healthy initiatives incorporating STEM, Farm-to-School and school health improvement, taught students employability skills and equipped students with personal finance and entrepreneurship skills.

Her students participated in Michelle Obama’s Health Kids program, creating and testing dishes in the school for food service. They also presented to elementary students about eating a variety of healthy foods, planted and cared for gardens at the school and introduced new healthy options for meals as well as a concessions.

Lewis has secured a series of grants to bring programs to her small school, including a $12,000 grant that enabled the school to buy iPads and an iPad cart initially to teach personal finance. Students at Indus School went on to earn spots to compete against 11 other teams across the state.

Lewis’ leadership and commitment to providing students opportunities extends beyond food. Name a major extracurricular program that’s providing enhanced opportunities for students at Indus School and Lewis likely is involved. She serves as an advisor for Student Council, yearbook, the school newspaper and the 10th grade.

“It is common for rural teachers to wear many hats, but few do at the level and excellence of Lois Lewis,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan said. “She consistently engages students in their own learning.”