Katie Koel has accomplished many things in her professional career, so it should come as no surprise that the Wisconsin Restaurant Association (WRA) will honor her on October 23 as its top College Educator at the Salute to Excellence Awards.
“I think one of the biggest things a culinary instructor needs to have is passion because it’s important to demonstrate to our students that we truly love what we do,” said Koel. “This is a tremendous honor and I am flattered to be recognized by the WRA.”
A graduate from Upper Iowa University and member of the Dean’s Circle of Scholars, accolades, both individual and as a member of the Blackhawk Technical College’s Culinary Arts program are nothing new to the 12-year BTC veteran. In 2005 she earned the Professional Excellence Award from the Wisconsin Association for Career and Technical Education. That same year, she was named the New Teacher of the Year at BTC and since then, Katie and BTC’s two other instructors, Chefs Joe Wollinger and Mark Olson, have helped lead the college to 17 different local and statewide awards including the Chef’s of Tomorrow Culinary Challenge, the Chili Extravaganza and the Midwest Food Service Expo.
“Katie is a very dedicated instructor who has worked hard to help us build a successful program,” said Wollinger. “She motivates her students to achieve; encouraging them to pursue their dreams. We’re proud to have her as part of the team.”
The Salute to Excellence awards are presented each year by the WRA. In addition to honoring educators, restaurateurs, food suppliers and mentors, the WRA Foundation also awards scholarships to students pursuing careers in the restaurant or hospitality industry.
Along with exceptional skills as an instructor, Koel is also a positive influence on her students when it comes to community relations. She routinely mentors and coaches teams of students for various culinary competitions, she is a regular participant at the annual Gingerbread Extravaganza, organized by Community Action Inc., to raise money to reduce poverty, and she volunteers her time to run the Epicurean Club, which provides BTC students interested in the culinary arts opportunities to participate in educational activities to enhance their culinary skills.