LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Karen Rennels

Position: Special Services Teacher
School: Parkside Junior High School
School District: McLean County Unit District No. 5
City, State: Normal, IL

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Karen Rennels was nominated by the grandmother of a student, Paula Northcutt.

"Karen is my grandson's teacher this year. She has amazing love and strength for autism. She takes the kids swimming, to the mall, to the grocery store, on walks, and to Target. Karen teaches them so much, and she literally cares about all aspects of each child.  She is definitely a cut above the rest when it comes to teachers, especially those working with autistic children.  We are so pleased to have her in our lives," said Northcutt.



Comments (17)


Shelby Walker Posted 5 months ago

Mrs. Rennels is a dedicated wife, mother, and daughter! She welcomes me into her home with warmth, love, and a smile every time! I am grateful for the love and hospitality she readily shows my family and I!

Calyn Witte Posted 5 months ago

I have known Karen for many years as a family friend. I have watched her grow as a educator and her passion for her students seems to grow twice as much. Karen goes above and beyond for her students and I had the chance to see this first hand many years ago when helping in her classroom.

Anonymous Posted 5 months ago

Karen has taught for 38 years being a mentor for future teachers and huge advocate for children with special needs. She is a dedicated professional and continues to learn new skills to help support her students. She is very deserving of this honor.

Libby Wolf Posted 5 months ago

Congratulations, Mrs Rennels! Very well deserved from what your daughter tell us about you.

Kaelynn Cox Posted 5 months ago

One of the most caring, selfless, individuals I know!

Anthony J LaGambina Posted 5 months ago

Karen Rennels is one of the most inclusive and welcoming people I have had the pleasure of knowing. She likes to see everyone included and engaged while being affable and exceedingly outgoing. Karen is selfless, consistently putting the needs of students and others above her own. She is always on the lookout for new strategies and techniques to hone her craft and incorporate them into her teaching style. Even through a pandemic, when forced to switch to remote learning she had to jump into a new style of teaching and find new ways to help her students. She is by far one of the best people I know and while there is no doubt that she changes the lives of her students, the unmistakably defining aspect of her character is that she changes the lives of absolutely everyone she meets.

Anonymous Posted 5 months ago

I was part of Mrs Rennels team, as a parent. She listened to our concerns and requests and coordinated with other team members so that they were addressed. I could bring any problem to Mrs. Rennels and she would help us brainstorm possible solutions. She cared about our son. She spent time outside of school with our son to foster relationships with peers. She genuinely cares! No one deserves this recognition more.

E Abrol Posted 5 months ago

Congrats on being nominated! Knowing your daughter I understand how big of an inspiration you're to people around you! Hope you win this award.

Anonymous Posted 5 months ago

Karen Rennels is an inspiration for not just teachers but everyone who knows her. She always makes sure her students are not only taught but loved. Karen Rennels has dedicated countless hours to making sure she is doing everything in her power for her students. She has truly changed lives, I can’t think of anyone who deserves recognition more.

Anonymous Posted 5 months ago

You would be hard-pressed to find someone more dedicated to her students, coworkers, or career than Karen Rennels. She has committed so much of her life to helping others and deserves lifelong gratitude for it.

Nick karimkuttyil Posted 5 months ago

Congrats Mrs. Rennels!

Melfa Sarkaria Posted 5 months ago

Good luck Mrs Rennels! Your daughter always talks about you and it’s clear you’re a great mother, teacher, and overall person that only wants the best for everyone.

Anonymous Posted 5 months ago

Karen Rennels has dedicated 38 years of her life to teaching the special Ed community. She not only works to educate herself and her students, she goes out of her way to educate the next generation of teachers. Karen cares about each of her students above and beyond the role of a teacher. She makes sure her students get everything they need, despite budget cuts, COVID, and administration that doesn’t understand the nuances of special education. Karen Rennels is a true inspiration and deserves this honor.

Kathleen O’Connell Posted 5 months ago

I have been blessed to be a member of Karen’s Team for 28 years. As the Adapted PE Instructor for her students, I cannot say enough about the importance Karen places on a multidisciplinary approach to educating her students. As a result, we all (PT, OT, Speech…) focus not only on our discipline, but also integrate all goal areas as appropriate so that we may educate the whole child. Karen also works hard to build and maintain lasting relationships with families. They are equal partners on our IEP team and Karen’s frequent communication with them gives them the dignity and respect they deserve. Finally, Karen genuinely loves and cares for each and every student she teaches. She spends countless hours preparing for instruction and behavioral intervention and planning. I am a better educator and team member for having had the opportunity to work with Karen.

Julie Basting Posted 5 months ago

Congratulations, Karen!

Jill DeBord Posted 5 months ago

Karen is amazing at meeting the needs of her students. My time spent in her class with her and her students has changed my life and the type of educator I want to be. I am blessed to know her!

Anonymous Posted 5 months ago

Karen is a TRUE LIFE CHANGER AND INSPIRATION. Her teaching goes beyond the classroom and changes her students lives. She’s created core curriculum for students with special needs to receive educational LIFE skills like swimming and community shopping. She sets her students up for success in ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE. The impact she makes on her students lives goes beyond the student and improves the lives of those family members who have struggled to overcome obstacles that only KAREN RENNELS CAN! She’s changed the world with her teaching style.