Bill Kottenstette - CDE's Director of Schools of Choice Office
Monday, June 5, 2017
Bill Kottenstette, 37, couldn't have designed a more fitting job for his experience and background than the one he starts June 15 at the Colorado Department of Education.
Kottenstette was hired to be CDE's director of the Schools of Choice Office, joining the unit after serving as executive director of Compass Montessori -- where he led one of the only public schools in the country that offers an authentic Montessori education from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Kottenstette, who grew up in Colorado, has experience as a teacher, an administrator, and working in government on education issues, developing systems and as a federal grants manager.
"I have always been passionate about education," said Kottenstette, who lives in Jefferson County with his wife and five children. "I'm also passionate about working for the state. CDE is doing some great work. There is no more important work in the state than supporting our public education asystem."
Kottenstette is a native of Denver, graduating from Bishop Machebeuf High School before attending the University of Colorado Boulder. Throughout his education, Kottenstette always had his eye on teaching. After earning his BA, he joined Teach for America, serving in a small rural town on the Texas-Mexican border where he taught middle school social studies.
From that experience, he went to work for then U.S. Congressman Bob Beauprez, where he focused on education policy. That led to a job with Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, where he advocated for strengthening early childhood education systems while managing a federal grant for Head Start. That state work morphed into a job with the Secretary of State's Office, where he helped counties navigate new federal election laws.
"But my heart was still in education," he said. "In the back of my mind, I wanted to run an education nonprofit."
Kottenstette returned to school, getting his Master's of Business Administration from Vanderbilt and landing a consulting job with the New York City Department of Education, where he helped on the design of the district's online teacher evaluation and professional development systems. That ultimately led him back to his home state of Colorado and to Denver Public Schools, where he joined the district's Charter and Innovation Team to work with school communities to open new schools that sought to offer distinct educational options that were responsive to their local needs.
For the past four years, he has worked at Compass Montessori. The school was highlighted in CDE's Stories of Promising Practice series for how it elevated its teaching practices by mapping its curriculum to the Colorado Academic Standards and introduce interim assessments and an online data management system.
The position that Kottenstette accepted with CDE perfectly matches his background in education, building systems and working in government systems and with charter schools.
"I knew I had to put my hat in the ring, and I got it," he said. "I am passionate about the volume of choice in our public school system. Choice is a tool that is in the state's toolbox. I don't feel charters are the magic bullet, but supporting strong leaders to build autonomous schools that emphasize distinct education frameworks, strengthens our system."
Kottenstette enjoys spending time with his wife and family in the local parks and community attractions we are privileged to have here in the metro area. He is a passionate fan of the Denver Broncos and Colorado Rockies and - even though he says he is terrible at it - he likes to find time for a round of golf when possible.