Boettcher Scholar launches second act as Boettcher Teacher

Boettcher Scholar launches second act as Boettcher Teacher

leighA fortuitous speaker lineup helped Boettcher Scholar Leigh Gillette reconnect with the Boettcher Foundation and launch a second career as a teacher in Durango.

Leigh, a 1989 Boettcher Scholar from Colorado Springs, spent her career as an environmental educator, helping people to understand and appreciate the world around them. While it was a rewarding role that had taken her around the state, she wanted to engage more directly with students and spend more time in Durango, where she had been working as an educator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“I’ve always been curious and a bit jealous of teachers and the relationships they can build with students,” Leigh said. “They have the luxury of time to work with students for a whole year.”

Leigh began to seriously consider a career change when was speaking at a conference of superintendents in the San Luis Valley. She was listed on the agenda immediately after a presentation by the Boettcher Teacher Residency.

“I heard their presentation, and I just knew that was the direction I would be taking,”

The Boettcher Teacher Residency, funded by the Boettcher Foundation and operated by PEBC, the Public Education and Business Coalition, prepares people to have exceptional teaching careers through a hands-on master’s degree program. Boettcher Teachers are placed in classrooms with mentor teachers, allowing them to develop classroom experience from the start.

Leigh explored the possibility of pursuing an alternative teacher licensure but wanted the professional support provided by a residency model.

“The Boettcher Teacher Residency just seemed to be everything I needed,” she said, adding that her prior experience as a Boettcher Scholar offered an extra level of confidence. “Seeing the Boettcher name attached to the program sealed the deal for me. I knew it was going to be great.”

While the Boettcher Teacher Residency is still relatively new compared to the scholarship program, Leigh is the second Boettcher Scholar who has entered the program and gone on to become a classroom teacher.

She said that being a Boettcher Scholar enabled her to attend Colorado College without the burden of figuring out how to pay for it or graduating with debt. That freedom allowed her to accept her first environmental educator role at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Center in Northern Minnesota, even though the position only paid for her room and board.

She went on to hold a variety of environmental educator roles, eventually taking her to Aspen and then to Durango, where she worked at the nonprofit Durango Nature Studies before joining the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

After entering the Boettcher Teacher Residency, Leigh spent the year teaching sixth-grade science at Miller Middle School in Durango, a position she will return to next school year. As a newly minted-teacher, Leigh is eager to give back to Colorado by educating the next generation of students.

“Personally I feel like I’m maintaining that Boettcher mentality of giving back to the state that has supported me so much,” she said.


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