As a teacher, Katie Bott is known for putting kids first and advocating for them. So it’s not surprising that after she was named the Teacher of the Year for Park County School District No. 1, …
As a teacher, Katie Bott is known for putting kids first and advocating for them. So it’s not surprising that after she was named the Teacher of the Year for Park County School District No. 1, Bott quickly directed the spotlight toward her students.
“They deserve the honor, because they face a lot of challenges,” said Bott, who teaches special education. “They’re inspiring little heroes, honestly.”
Bott said she’s very fortunate to work with her students at Southside Elementary School, and the kids do something that encourages and inspires her every day.
“We have hard days, too, but there’s always something special that comes out of each day,” she said.
Bott believes in her students, and is the first to celebrate their milestones, said Southside Principal Scott Schiller.
“Through Katie’s ongoing leadership, drive, actions and dedication, every one of her special needs students, despite their monumental struggles and disabilities, find success daily,” Schiller wrote in a letter nominating Bott for the 2021 Wyoming Teacher of the Year. “She believes in their ability and ‘makes it happen’ every day in her classroom!”
Bott was named the district’s Teacher of the Year in the spring, and is being considered for the statewide honor. The state will announce the Wyoming winner this month.
Bott serves as the life skills teacher at Southside, working with students who have multiple disabilities and learning difficulties. She has made the elementary program one of distinction, Schiller wrote.
“Katie always puts her kids first and she instills the same value in her paraeducator staff,” Schiller said.
Bott is quick to give credit to her colleagues as well.
“I have an amazing team here,” she said. “So the award really isn’t just mine — it’s everybody that works in my room.”
The team includes paraeducators Travis Sessions, SheraLee Lynn, Kaci Dilworth, Heidi Knop and Jessica Shrum. Bott called the staff “phenomenal.”
“We have a great program, but it’s because we have great helpers and great people,” she said.
Bott and the paraeducators often work with students one-on-one.
Bott is from Montana and graduated from Northwest College, then went on to get her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana Western in Dillon and her endorsement in special education from Utah State University. Before joining Park 1 in 2009, she worked in Las Vegas and Utah. When she taught first grade in Nevada, the school did a full inclusion program, where special education students remain in the classroom with all students.
“That’s where I fell in love with the whole idea of special education,” she said, saying it’s rewarding to know you have a purpose and make a difference in kids’ lives.
“They need an advocate — someone who has their back,” Bott said. “They know you’re not going to give up on them, so they don’t give up on themselves, either.”
For her students, Bott is “the single best advocate besides their parents that they have in this world,” Principal Schiller said.
Bott is currently working on her master’s degree in autism spectrum disorders to advance her understanding and knowledge.
“It is very different for each child, but there’s so much we can learn to help them and their families,” she said.
During the past year, Bott and her students and their parents learned together in new ways after school buildings closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While remote learning and new technology brought challenges in the spring, Bott said there were blessings that came out of it, too.
“It was really neat to work so closely with their parents and to have parents so willing to set aside everything to make sure their children succeed,” Bott said. “All of our families were like that, and that is just amazing to get to be a part of that.”
Bott said she’s also thankful to be part of a school district and community that put kids first.
“It’s top of the line,” she said of Park 1. “It’s an amazing place to be a teacher. Having taught in other places where you have so much less — less support, less materials, less everything. It’s neat what we can do here for kids.”
Superintendent Jay Curtis said the work that Bott does on behalf of kids is “absolutely commendable.”
Always willing to take on new challenges, Bott is a dedicated, conscientious and thoughtful teacher who gives with her whole heart, added Ginger Sleep, special services director.
Bott often puts in long hours to get everything ready for her students’ next day of learning.
“If you drive by Southside Elementary School late at night, there is a good chance you will see Katie’s vehicle parked along Monroe Street or in the bus loop, and it might still be there at midnight,” Schiller wrote, adding, “She is always at the school.”
Bott acknowledged that she works hard, “but I do it because I love it.”
“I just really love the kids,” she said.