Karen Rennels is an Illinois State University graduate with a Bachelors’s in special education and a master's degree in Assistive Technology from Fort Hays State University. This is her 38th year of teaching with the last 28 at McLean County Unit 5, in Normal, Illinois, teaching middle school. Her favorite grades to teach! While training to standards for functional academics, the underlining focus of her class has always been social-emotional learning through behavior skills development and communication. Mrs. Rennels is passionate about teaching students with moderate to severe disabilities, especially students with autism and communication needs. She has always had the highest level of expectations for each student to achieve their highest potential. She has continued professional development in augmentative communication, literacy, and autism. Mrs. Rennels has shared her skills through numerous presentations in literacy, communication-based classrooms, visual supports, and autism. She has been an adjunct instructor at Illinois State University for Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder and Family Teacher Partnership classes. Mrs. Rennels has been the recipient of educational honors: Arizona Educational Leadership Award, McLean County Autism Society Educator of 2009, 2013, and in 2018 the Life Time Achievement Award from Heroes Embracing Autistic Lives, Inc.