The Arc Minnesota Awards

Meet Karen Bendtsen, The Arc Minnesota Awards 2012 Teacher of the Year Karen Bendtsen

Seeing her students progress, develop new interests and tackle new challenges – this is what Karen Bendtsen, The Arc Minnesota Awards 2012 Teacher of the Year, finds most rewarding about her job.

The Arc Minnesota Awards recognize individuals and organizations whose work creates a better Minnesota for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Karen has worked in special education with Intermediate School District 287 in Richfield for 30 years.  She currently works with transition-age students.

Pam Carlson, Director of Community Relations for The Arc Greater Twin Cities, nominated Karen for the Teacher of the Year award.  Pam explained, “The school program is preparing students for the adult world.  Karen doesn’t limit possibilities but rather goes out of her way to ensure students have experiences that let them consider all kinds of vocational options.”

Karen is committed to exploring new possibilities for her students.  During the 2011-2012 school year, Karen received a Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Learning Grant to create an art garden next to their school.  The students crafted mosaic benches, pathway stones, bird houses and sculptures as well as artwork and mobiles for the building entrance.

Karen also incorporated the grant project as a teaching tool; students read about mosaics, wrote about them, and toured the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden.

Anne Krocak, Director of Operations at AchieveMpls, also nominated Karen for the Teacher of the Year award.  Anne said of the art garden project, “I watched a number of students became more verbal, proud and communicative in sharing their joy in the art.  Karen was able to see the big picture and the intrinsic motivation of one activity and allow it to enliven the whole curriculum.”

Karen was presented with the 2012 Teacher of the Year award at the Annual Awards Banquet on Friday, November 16.  She was outfitted for the event by Michelle Dustin, the Arc’s Value Village Personal Shopper, with pieces collected from Arc’s Value Village stores.  She wore a black ruched dress by Kay Unger, $9.99; patent leather clutch by La Regale, $5.99; and gold multi-chain bib necklace, $9.99.

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