The teacher behind a student-led cafe at Winmalee High School has been named the VET Trainer and Teacher of the Year at a NSW Training Awards ceremony on October 9.
Hospitality teacher Megan Renwick started the Caffeine Lab at the school in 2015, inspired by another school selling coffees from a broom cupboard.
Pre-coronavirus, year 12 VET (vocational education and training) hospitality students would open the cafe of a Friday morning for breakfast and drinks. They were pumping out about 120 breakfasts, 100 coffees and 100 drinks such as smoothies or juices, in just 1.5 hours.
The students were expected to run the cafe as a business, and were responsible for balancing the books, ordering supplies, designing the menu, promoting it and making everything from scratch.
"They will look at what's on trend at the moment and what other cafes are doing," Ms Renwick said. "Some of their edgier menus have done really well."
When marriage equality was achieved in 2017 the students made rainbow bagels with rainbow cream cheese filling and rainbow cheese toasties, which were snapped up by the school community.
"We're not just your ham and cheese croissant type of place. The students made cruffins, cronuts and cragels for a series of weeks. It's all about how do you take something and manipulate it so it's that bit different so people want to try it," Ms Renwick said.
With a background in forensic chemistry and forensic archaeology, Ms Renwick has encouraged the students to create food without a recipe.
"I want them to understand the science behind the food," she said.
Watching the students grow in confidence as they learn practical skills, was extremely rewarding.
"They work out how to do things on their own 'cause they have that confidence ... gaining the confidence in the kitchen reflects in their HSC results," Ms Renwick said.
The school's hospital program has gone from strength to strength. In one year course enrolments grew from 41 to 149 students.
Relieving principal Voula Facas said they were "very proud of the recognition Megan has received for her leadership in this field."
"Megan is very a passionate teacher and her students love being in her class," she said.
"The breadth and depth of experience the students gain in running a cafe is invaluable for our students. The enjoyment that it brings to staff, students and special guests to the school has also been wonderful. Some of the best breakfasts I've had are in the Caffeine Lab cafe."
Ms Renwick was humbled to receive the award. "I don't think I do anything special. I love coming to work, and seeing my students get real life employment skills is great."
Member of the Legislative Council and Blue Mountains resident Shayne Mallard congratulated Ms Renwick on receiving the prestigious award, saying she was an inspiration to anyone thinking of pursuing a fulfilling and rewarding career through VET.
The NSW Training Awards are conducted annually by the NSW Department of Education in recognition of outstanding achievements in VET.
Ms Renwick is in the running for a national award, the winner to be announced on November 20.