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College honors two long-time Vail Valley instructors

Suzie Romig
Special to the Vail Daily
Vail, COC olorado
Photo by Doug Stewart/Special to the Vail DailyTodd Rymer, director of culinary education at Colorado Mountain College's Culinary Institute in Edwards, center, receives the collegewide full-time faculty of the year award from college President Dr. Stan Jensen and campus CEO Peggy Curry.
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VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – A hastily called “staff meeting” Wednesday in Colorado’s Vail Valley was just a ruse for culinary teacher Todd Rymer – about 20 of his colleagues cheered as Rymer learned he had just earned the highest distinction among his peers.

“We have approximately 100 full-time faculty at Colorado Mountain College, across all our campuses, and you are the top dog,” Dr. Stan Jensen, college-wide president, told stunned culinary educator Todd Rymer on Wednesday.

Rymer beamed, shocked by the sudden attention he received as college-wide full-time faculty of the year.

Honored as the adjunct faculty of the year for the campus is Kendra Doepken Cowles, who teaches English as a second language.

In front of peers and colleagues, President Jensen and campus CEO Peggy Curry presented Rymer with a small eagle statue and a check to spend on professional development.

“I’m thrilled because there are so many excellent faculty here, “Rymer said, grinning ear to ear. “This means a lot to me. I’ve seen the others nominated from other campuses, and I know they are all quite impressive.”

Each year, educators from the college’s seven campuses stretching across nine counties in north-central Colorado can nominate one full-time and one adjunct instructor for faculty of the year honors. Then senior administrators select a college-wide honoree in each of the two categories.

Vail resident Rymer started at the college in March 2000 after an extensive academic and professional career in the food service industry. He stays busy teaching a full load of classes, supervising student apprenticeships, and recruiting and fundraising for the program.

“Todd consistently demonstrates passion for culinary arts in his teaching, whether it is a particular cooking class or an academic class like Cost Control,” Curry said. “He encourages. He challenges. He is flexible while holding students to the highest standards. He has consistently sought to grow as a professional teacher of the culinary arts, bringing the best and latest practices into the classroom.”

In addition to his regular duties, Rymer helped equip the new shared teaching kitchen at Battle Mountain High School. He continues to conduct extensive research in preparation for a new, 20-credit-hour certificate program in sustainable food service operations, which is expected to start this fall.

“Todd’s willingness to go out on a limb with a new program idea also demonstrates how engaged he is as a faculty member,” Curry said.

Rymer earned a master of science degree in hotel and food service management, as well as a certificate in environmental studies in 1991 from Florida International University. His bachelor of arts degree is in religious studies from the University of South Florida.

When he is not teaching or cooking at home with his wife, Rymer spends busy winter weekends teaching skiing at Beaver Creek Resort.

Adjunct faculty of the year

Another longtime Colorado Mountain College instructor, Kendra Cowles, recently was named adjunct faculty of the year for the Vail-Eagle Valley Campus.

Curry said the part-time instructor of English as a second language has a heart for helping others and a commitment to education.

Eagle resident Cowles has taught ESL for advanced beginners at Colorado Mountain College since 2002 and currently teaches two nights a week at Gypsum Elementary School. Cowles has a bachelor’s degree in art education and a background in children’s education, but she gained a love of Latin cultures through her extensive travels in Mexico and Costa Rica and a college semester abroad in Spain.

She has worked for the past four years as the children’s programming coordinator for the Eagle Valley Library District in Gypsum, but she also likes working with adult learners.

“I really enjoy the energy and dedication of the adult learner,” said Cowles, whose students say is a friendly, patient and comprehensive teacher.

“The first things you notice about Kendra in the classroom are her gentleness, her playfulness and her individual attention and dedication to each individual’s learning,” said Denise Abate, instructional chair at the campus. “Kendra is outstanding and unique in the depth and authenticity of her commitment to the learners in her classroom. Kendra is the consummate learner and global citizen.”

Cowles also is an AIDS education advocate, inspired by six weeks spent in a youth health education program in Tanzania, and is an active volunteer with the Red Ribbon Project in Eagle County.

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