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PR-B Outstanding special ed teacher recognized by state department of education

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The Minnesota Department of Education recognized Pine River-Backus special education teacher Kate Rennicke as an Outstanding Special Education Teacher during Minnesota’s Special Education Teacher Recruitment Week March 24-28.

Rennicke teaches K-12 students at PR-B School through the Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative and was selected as one of five teachers to win the recognition.

“I am very honored and I am very humbled by it. It is such an honor, and I was caught off guard a little bit. Just being in my third year and receiving something like this is very humbling,” Rennicke said.

Rennicke manages cases for 12 students from kindergarten to 12th grade and provides direct instructions to 10 students from kindergarten to seventh grade. Liz Lee, Paul Bunyan Education Co-op assistant director, said one reason she nominated Rennicke was because of her involvement with additional students.

“Her passion and her kindness for her kids. She does a lot of unique things for her elementary students. They are always doing fun little projects that are meaningful, education wise, on top of that. She takes on other students who aren’t hers,” Lee said.

Rennicke said she motivates her classes by providing them with visible goals. During December, they earned the reward of watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” by covering a picture of the Grinch with hearts that they earned. They earned stick-on marshmallows to fill a giant mug of hot chocolate in January so they could have a hot chocolate party. In March, they filled up a pot of gold so they could shop at the ROAR store, and this month they started a rainbow full of skittles to earn extra recess time.

“The kids earn all those tangible items by working really hard in groups and showing good behavior,” Rennicke said.

Rennicke uses many different creative methods for teaching.

“Another thing we have going on is pen pals with a special ed class in Pequot Lakes. This is our second year. We have something called Fun Friday, so Friday afternoons, if kids have worked hard and shown good behavior, then they get to do the Fun Friday activity. Sometimes it is a cooking activity. Sometimes it is a science experiment. It’s different every week,” Rennicke said.

Rennicke was born for her position. She has known since first grade in Perham that she wanted to be a teacher, and she knew fairly early that she would like to teach children with special needs.

“My brother is actually who inspired me to go into my career. He has very special needs, so he was my motivation and inspiration to do what I do,” Rennicke said.

Rennicke’s brother is two years older than she is, but she always volunteered to help out in his classes and perform as a lunch buddy during school. She has been working with students with special needs since middle school. Her job is personal and important to her.

“I have always enjoyed spending time with kids with disabilities. It has always been a joy, and you walk away with a full heart when you get a chance to spend time with kids that just need a little extra help,” Rennicke said.

Travis Grimler can be reached at Follow him at and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.