An Osakis High School graduate received a state award for her work as a special education teacher.

The Minnesota Administrators for Special Education named Amy Ernst, director of special education of the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools, as the recipient of the 2019 New Special Education Leader Award.

Ernst is the daughter of Chet and Harriet Wallace.

Ernst received this award for her commitment to students with disabilities and their families and her active involvement in professional and community affairs. She was honored at a statewide recognition ceremony during the MASA/MASE Spring Conference in Brooklyn Park.

"Amy exemplifies what this award represents - a willingness to risk, an ability to collaborate, skills in listening and communicating, and a broad understanding of the educational system," said Nan Records, retired director of special education and regional low incidence facilitator at Sourcewell. "She may be new as a director, but for years, Amy has demonstrated passion, commitment, and the skills necessary to impact the quality of education for students with disabilities."

Ernst has been the school's director of special education since 2015. Prior to her position at Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose, she served as special education coordinator and then assistant director of special education at the Sherburne/Northern Wright Special Education Cooperative. She was a special education teacher at Monticello Public Schools and Elk River Area Schools.

Ernst was described as a creative problem-solver and a constant solution-seeker. The district said her leadership style is one of building strong, positive relationships, yet she is not one to shy away from the tough issues directors face.

Ernst created a program development cycle for special education within the district. It will provide the district with ongoing data with regard to programming and teaching, which helps students achieve at higher levels.

Ernst also created a new social, emotional and behavioral programming specialist - Teacher on Special Assignment - position for the district. The position will help special education teachers across the district design and implement stronger programs for special education students.

"Amy's passion and commitment for all students and especially special education students is evident and observable each and every day," said Scott Thielman, Superintendent of the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools. "Amy's knowledge and experience is a tremendous asset to the students of the district and the state of Minnesota through her service to MASE and should be used to the fullest extent possible."

Ernst received a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Bemidji State University. She earned a master's degree in special education and a sixth-year certificate in special education administration.

MASE is a professional association organized to promote programs and services to improve the education of children with disabilities, to foster high quality programs of professional development, and to study problems relating to serving children with disabilities and improving the leadership of administrators for special education.