Cotopaxi science teacher Rae Anne “Randi” Dotter

Cotopaxi science teacher Rae Anne “Randi” Dotter holds her Sanford Teacher Award, which was presented Nov. 27. The award, given to 51 teachers nationwide, came with a $10,000 prize.

Cotopaxi science teacher Rae Anne “Randi” Dotter has received the National University System-Colorado Sanford Teacher Award, along with a $10,000 prize. 

This is the first year for the award established by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford in conjunction with the National University System, which includes National University, John F. Kennedy University, City University of Seattle and the Division of Pre College Programs, a press release stated.

The award is given to teachers who demonstrate their commitment to “creating inspirational and harmonious classrooms that support student development and achievement.”

In all, 51 teachers were chosen for the award, representing each state and the District of Columbia.

Dotter is the recipient representing Colorado.

All 51 recipients qualify for a chance to be named national winner of the Sanford Teaching Award, which will be announced in early 2019.

Dotter became a teacher through the “Troops to Teachers” program in 2006 following a 20-year U.S. Air Force career as a KC/EC-135 instructor and evaluator pilot, which included a tour as assistant professor of chemistry at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

She is a combat veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and did five tours of support during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For the last 12 years Dotter has taught science at Cotopaxi School.

As a 2016 CenturyLink “Teacher and Technology” $5,000 grant recipient, she brought Challenger Learning Center programs to Cotopaxi School for two days of space and STEM activities for pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade students.

She has recently become involved in the “Growing Beyond Earth” project, a partnership between Fairchild Botanic Garden and NASA, in which her classroom serves as an active research site.

Students cultivate selected plants in a growth chamber that mimics those on the International Space Station, measure and record data on plant growth and health and input their research into spreadsheets that are used by NASA scientists.

Dotter also is in her eighth year of teaching Spanish and her third year as a faculty advisor for Cotopaxi’s drama club.

As faculty advisor to Student Council from 2011-2017, she started a middle school leadership program and worked with the group to organize many school and community service projects.

“Above all,” Dotter said, “teaching is a way for me to serve others and have a positive influence on our future. In my 12 short years of teaching at our rural Title I school, my passion has been creating a learning environment in which all students can discover their talents, strive to reach their fullest potential, dream big and gain the necessary skills to pursue those dreams.

“I have drawn upon my background as a pilot and combat veteran to inspire my students to ‘reach for the stars.’

“I believe my classroom has no bounds, and I want my students to know that science is everywhere, in everything, and that they can have a role to play in the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers. It is my sincere hope that with my help, the sky will not be the limit for my students’ dreams anymore.”

Dotter keeps a quote on her desk attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “Far and away, the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

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