Applause rang out, tears fell and words proved elusive.

Cori Reynolds was rendered speechless after hearing she won Outstanding Educator of the Year, one of nine Distinguished Service Awards given by Brainerd Community Action and the Brainerd Jaycees.

“I have no bullet points,” she said in a shaky voice to a room full of friends, family and colleagues who gathered for the surprise announcement Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the Washington Educational Services Building.

Guests included her husband Brian, son Elliot -- who snuck out of school for the celebration -- and her mom, who traveled from Duluth to be a part of the surprise.

Reynolds is in her sixth school year as the director of community education for the Brainerd School District.

“This has been a wonderful journey together,” Superintendent Laine Larson said to Reynolds Wednesday, as they both got choked up and wiped tears from their eyes. “You have committed your whole life to this school district -- not only the referendum, but through community education, through your work with communications, through your contributions that you make in our community every single day.”

Larson noted Reynolds continues to better her own education as well, as she is studying for her master’s degree and working her way to an education administration license.

“So on top of everything, she just keeps adding and adding,” Larson said. “She works tirelessly, and she never says ‘no,’ and she never quits. She is a Warrior true and true and through and through.”

Reynolds herself said she was shocked and surprised at the news and felt undeserving in the midst of 1,000 district employees “who give their heart and soul.”

The Distinguished Service Awards banquet is at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at The Woods in Brainerd. All award winners will be honored. Tickets are available at or at the Distinguished Service Award Banquet’s Facebook page.