Above: Columbia Central High School teacher Karen Trudeau works with junior Jacob Manning on a class assignment.
Karen Trudeau: Living her dream job as a special education teacher
By Pam Campbell, Superintendent,
Columbia School District
and John Hummer, Editor
Karen Trudeau has always loved helping others.As an elementary student, she loved helping her grandmother, Alice Haystead, who was a teacher at Clarklake Elementary School. As a high school student, she would take every opportunity to assist her aunt who was also an elementary teacher in Napoleon. Because of her love for helping others and her experience helping in classrooms and tutoring struggling students, Karen was determined to become a special education teacher.
Now Karen is busy making a difference in the lives of students at Columbia Central High School. She is focused on cultivating an environment of academic success.
This past year, she was voted “Teacher of the Year” by her fellow Columbia Central High School teachers. Karen is consistently working to advance her students to higher levels of academic achievement through careful planning and focusing on increasing her student’s educational excellence. She works to motivate her students by encouraging them to exceed their expectations and their past academic performance. Her caring and nurturing spirit supports her students both academically and socially.
Karen achieved her dream of becoming a special education teacher at Columbia. In her first year of teaching she worked with junior high students in the morning and taught kindergarten in the afternoon. She said that she worked with the late Mary Neely and that she “learned so much from her as she was an amazing teacher and a wonderful human being.” Although she loved the little ones, she took her dream job as a full-time special education teacher at Columbia Central High School the next fall.
Karen Trudeau (third from right) was recognized by Columbia SchoolDistrict board members and Superintendent Pam Campbell (far left) with the Superintendent’s Award of Excellence. To the right of Campbell are Bob Wahr, Brian Knapp, Garrick Zuver, Karen Trudeau, Jodi Collins, and Mark Fish.
Karen is currently in her 32nd year of teaching – all with the Columbia School District. She grew up on the family farm in Norvell Township and graduated from Napoleon High School. Karen then went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University with a major in Special Education-Emotional Impairments and a minor in Elementary Mathematics. She also earned a master’s degree in Learning Disabilities from Eastern Michigan University as well.
She says she is so blessed to have a job in which every day is diverse, and is so privileged to work in the satisfying, life-changing career of teaching.
“There is nothing like watching a student have that ‘Aha’ moment or seeing their faces when they finally understand a concept or when they get a good grade on an assignment, quiz or test,” Karen said. “I love teaching, especially math. There are a lot of students who struggle with math and I have tried, over the years, to make it fun. I love being able to create projects around math concepts.”
On that note, Karen added, “We have been able to make treats for the veterans at Christmas, teaching students to read recipes, compare prices, and calculate costs. We have made gingerbread houses, learned cake decorating, and even took a trip to Lowes to price the supplies it would take to decorate a room in a home. We made pies for Pi Day as a culminating activity when learning about circles.”
Columbia teachers recognized Karen for her leadership in the classroom and as an important part of school improvement efforts. Karen’s enthusiasm for learning in various settings is illustrated by her ability to demonstrate creativity and innovation in her lesson plans and using teaching methods that inspire students to learn.
Karen has also had an impact on students through her love of theater and the musicals. She is excited to be directing this year’s junior high musical, SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE! JR. The performance will take place on Friday and Saturday, May 3and May 4, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 5 at 2p.m. at the Columbia Performing Arts Center. The musical features many of the songs from the old cartoon series “Schoolhouse Rock”.
Karen is married to Thomas Trudeau and has three children Trevor, 28, band and choir director at Napoleon Schools; Ethan, 24, police officer in Virginia; and Aaron, 19, finishing his sophomore year at Grand Valley State University studying computer science.
In her spare time, Karen enjoys attending her children’s athletic, music, and theatre events. She also enjoys attending, directing, and costuming theatre productions. She is also a fan of baseball, enjoys gardening, and traveling with her family.
The Columbia School District appreciates the hard work and excellence in education provided to our students in Karen’s classes. The students benefit from her tenacity, educational enthusiasm, and positive ethical spirit. Karen is an extraordinary dedicated teacher, blessed by her various teaching gifts. She is an exemplary teacher who fosters a collaborative environment for her students through her deep passion for learning.