MHSCA's Johanna Heigaard was named the MnACTE New Teacher of the Year

The Minnesota Association for Career and Technical Education has named Johanna Heigaard, a Family and Consumer Services teacher at the Moorhead High School Career Academy, the 2023-24 New Teacher of the Year for the State of Minnesota. Awarded to teachers with less than five years’ experience in career and technical education (CTE), the honor recognizes teachers who have made significant contributions toward innovative and unique CTE programs.

“Being honored as the MnACTE New Teacher of the year is incredibly humbling and I’m so grateful,” said Heigaard. “Having the chance to share my culinary passion with my students while empowering them through education is surreal. I’m very thankful to the Moorhead school district and community for seeing the positive benefits of the Career Academy model and their continued support of CTE.”

Heigaard is in her second year as a FACS teacher with Moorhead Area Public Schools after spending three years as a paraprofessional with the West Fargo School District. She leads the Career Academy’s culinary program, which she helped start during the 2022-23 school year.

“Johanna has been a very bright light in the FACS department who has been willing to take on anything that’s been thrown at her,” said Career Academy assistant principal Holly Strand-Rysgaard. “That includes launching the culinary program, working to get it ProStart certified and expanding the program coming into its second year.”

ProStart is a national two-year, industry-backed culinary arts and restaurant management program for high school students.

Not only has Heigaard grown the program in terms of numbers, with 33 students enrolled this year and 90 already registered for 2024-25, but she has also worked to improve the learning experience for her students. She has developed industry connections in the region, engaging local businesses to provide real-world learning opportunities and internships.

In addition to her work with the culinary program, Heigaard also teaches classes such as International Foods and Food Basics.

As the winner of this year’s MACTE award for Minnesota, she is the state’s nominee for the regional New Teacher of the Year award. Minnesota is in Region III, which also includes Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. Regional winners become finalists for the national award, which will be announced in December.