A member of the Osseo Area Schools special education support staff has been recognized as the best in her field in Minnesota.

Michelle Dennard, who has worked with special education students for 16 years, was named Education Support Professional of the Year this week by Education Minnesota, the state teachers union. Dennard works at the Osseo Education Center, a school for special education students between the ages of 17 and 21.

Dennard is a leader in her local union for educational support professionals, serves on Education Minnesota’s statewide governing board and is the creator of a group for educational support professionals of color.

In her application for the state award, Denard wrote that she’s known for working with the students with some of the greatest challenges.

“I make sure that all students’ overall needs are met, regardless of their level, race or gender, and that they have the tools to succeed,” she wrote.

Dennard is now in the running for the National Education Association’s Education Support Professional of the Year award.