COLORADO SPRINGS — Often times, special education teachers diligently work behind the scenes to make sure students with disabilities have everything they need, and one local teacher is being recognized for her work in and out of the classroom.
Her name is Kara Anseth, and she's a pre-school teacher at Mark Twain Elementary School. However, she taught special education for 11 years.
Every year, the Colorado Springs Down Syndrome Association gives out teacher appreciation awards to those making a difference, and Anseth is among one of the five winners in the Pikes Peak Region.
The Mize family in Colorado Springs nominated her for her work with their six year old boy named Major, who has down syndrome. Anseth began tutoring Major prior to the pandemic. After a long school day of teaching school, she would drive to the family's home across down and tutor him in person. Now, that tutoring has moved online.
"The award was a huge surprise to me and it means the world to me," said Anseth. "I do have a heart for the kids who struggle. I do have a heart for the kids who have medical issues and can't access the curriculum like a typical kiddo can. I do what I do so every kid can have an opportunity to learn."
Anseth said she has two medically-challenged siblings as well as an uncle who has down syndrome. So for her, volunteering her time to bring the pre-school curriculum to the family's home was an easy choice.
"At their home, we would play, we would read a story, we would work on his name, we would work on colors, we would work on shapes," said Anseth. "It's been so great working with them. They're such a special family, and they want what's best for Major."
Major's mom, Necie Mize, said despite some of the challenges her son faced early on while learning, the two formed a unique, special bond in a short amount of time.
"She just refused to give up on him. She could tell right away that he was an intelligent child. She had to figure out how to crack the code so to speak. She was absolutely relentless in her belief that he can learn," said Mize. "I could talk for days about how grateful we are for her having faith in our child, and the fact that she really is that dedicated to every student, it's just incredible."
As for Anseth, she's just happy to provide an equal opportunity for students to learn, and for that, she believes she's stronger as an educator.
"He's a student, and he's a kindergartner just like any other kindergartner, but his classroom just looks a little bit different," said Anseth. "I think Major has helped me become a better teacher. He's made me think outside the box a lot, on what works for him and how he learns."
The school year at Mark Twain Elementary ends this week. Starting next week, Anseth said she'll begin in-person tutoring again at the family's home. She says for that, she'll put on protective gear like gloves and a mask to ensure everyone's safety.