Mary Lundeen has received the "2012 DEC Practitioner of the Year Award" from the Minnesota Council for Exceptional Children Division for Early Childhood (DEC). Lundeen is an early childhood special education (ECSE) teacher in Anoka-Hennepin’s Early Intervention Program.
Lundeen received the award March 16 at an event in Bloomington.
"This award is especially meaningful because it comes from colleagues," Lundeen said. "I feel so fortunate to be a part of positive changes in the lives of young children and their families."
Judy Klein-Pells, an ECSE teacher, nominated Lundeen for the award. Lundeen’s supervisor, Jane Roundtree; colleague, Kristin Baden; and parent of one of her students, Rebecca Van Batavia, wrote letters on her behalf.
In her nomination, Klein-Pells wrote that Lundeen has been on the front line of evidence-based practices and innovations in working with children with special needs as long as she has known her. For example, when Lundeen came to the Anoka-Hennepin School District, there was one student with autism. Since then, Lundeen has been a leader in this area, working as the first State Department of Education autism specialist, being trained and training others in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scales (ADOS) and establishing the State Autism Network.
Lundeen is certified in Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and works with young children who fail preschool screening because of behavior issues. In part, Lundeen’s work prevents special education identification of these students by improving their ability to cooperate with and follow adult-directed activities. Anoka-Hennepin School District is the only school district in the state to offer this service.
"Mary has brought innovation and best practice strategies to enhance student learning for the more than 33 years she has been with the Anoka-Hennepin School District," Klein-Pells wrote. "Mary inspires others to do and be their best by her own strong work ethic. In whatever capacity she is working, her focus is always on helping children and families either directly or by training and helping others."
Mary Clarkson, director of Special Education, said the organization could not have picked a more deserving recipient for the award.
"Mary’s dedication and service to young children and their families truly changes lives," Clarkson said. "It is clear to anyone who knows Mary that the work she does everyday is not just her job, it is her passion – and Anoka Hennepin is lucky to have her as a part of our early childhood special education team."