Karen Oliphant Bender didn’t give up teaching at Ocean City High School 12 years ago when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, even though she could have retired with full benefits. After 27 years, she still loved it too much.

“The students were fantastic with me. They used to do my PowerPoints or type up my notes. If I couldn’t write on the board, they’d write for me,” said Bender, 62, of Ocean City. But she had to retire last March, after a mini-stroke intensified her Parkinson’s. She was just a few months shy of the 40-year mark.

“I knew that if it ever affected my teaching, I would give it up,” she said.

Bender taught AP English to superlative students and night courses for challenged students who couldn’t attend regular school hours. She had a 100 percent pass rate for getting students who had failed the High School Proficiency Assessment to pass the exam senior year.

“We had a big pizza party when they passed,” she said.

One of her favorite accomplishments was opening up the high school’s prom for singles to attend. She went before the board of education in the 1980s on behalf of a student and successfully argued for a rule change.

Bender was active on the citizens’ committee that got the city’s Blue Laws amended in 1987, to allow stores to stay open Sundays. That led her into local politics. She was on City Council, ran for mayor, and served on many boards.

She is married to retired Ocean City High School teacher and writer Henry Bender, and they have three adult daughters.

3 named to YMCA panel

Vineland residents Bob DeSanto, Alex Curio and Diego Cuartas have been named to the YMCA of Vineland’s 25-member board of directors.

DeSanto, 66, is a partner in the Vineland law firm of Gruccio, Pepper, DeSanto and Ruth.

Curio, 57, is the community-development director for the City of Vineland.

Cuartas, 43, was born in Colombia, and he is the former executive director of the Hope Community Foundation in Vineland. He was a community-relationship aide for Vineland until earlier this year. Since 2001, he has been the associate pastor of the Living Faith Alliance Church in Vineland.

Everyone Has a Story appears Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:

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