Dr. Karen Castor Dentel is an experienced teacher in Orange County Public Schools. Currently teaching at Riverdale Elementary School, she has also served as a professional educator in the district for over twelve years. Her tenure includes schools familiar to many families in this central county area including Dommerich, Aloma, Lake Sybelia and Audubon Park Elementary Schools. Because of her deep classroom knowledge, she understands the issues familiar to parents, students and the communities so vital to our future.
Karen’s experience in education is not limited to her understanding of the classroom. She also served for a term in the Florida Legislature representing much of the area included in current School Board District 6. As a member of the Legislature, Karen served on the important K-12 Education Subcommittee as well as the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. She had an opportunity to debate substantive bills as well as to fight for better funding for our schools. As the Florida Education Association will attest, Karen was on the front lines of trying to promote teacher fairness, reduce unnecessary testing and create more flexibility for all school districts in the state.
The prosperity of Central Florida is linked directly to the education of our young people. No one knows this better than Karen. As a legislator, she was a member of the Tourism and Economic Development Subcommittee as well as the Business and Professional Regulations Subcommittee. She will continue to concentrate on educational programs that benefit the region, including job training. One of her bills would have incorporated financial literacy as a part of the curriculum, a particular interest of Jr. Achievement.
As a teacher, Karen is particularly sensitive to these critical classroom and school issues. She will look closely at the budget of Orange County to ensure that school safety programs are effective and that our schools are constructed and maintained with the security that parents and students deserve.
Orange County has been a leader in the community school movement, especially with the Evans High School model. This is an area in which Karen has particular expertise. Following her term in the Florida Legislature, Karen became the Director of Community School Development for the Children’s Home Society of Florida (fortunately also located in the district). In that capacity, she worked throughout the state to promote the concept of community schools, which build partnership between school districts and consortiums of universities, medical facilities, social agencies and businesses.
Community and education voluntary activities have been important to Karen. She has been an education policy advocate for Fund Education Now, Inc. and also completed the OCPS Leadership Orange, Class VII in 2017. At every level she has participated in school support activities; as PTA member, School Advisory Council Member, OCPS Teach-In Presenter & Volunteer. She has participated as a member of the UCF Center for Community Schools Advisory Board and the USF College of Education Anchin Center Board.
Some of Karen’s most important lessons are learned at home from her own two children. Wyatt is a junior at Winter Park High School and Caroline is a middle school student at Maitland Middle. They reside in Maitland.
Karen is a product of Florida public schools, having graduated from Chamberlain High School in Hillsborough County where she also attended middle and elementary school. Following an early interest in teaching, she attended and earned her B.S. degree in Elementary Education from Vanderbilt University in 1990. Karen then pursued and earned a Master’s in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After beginning her teaching career, she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Florida where she ultimately earned her doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction.