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Rupley’s Julie Botkin honored as top adapted elementary P.E. teacher in Illinois

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It is fitting that someone who helped shape Ms. Julie Botkin into the teacher she is today would be the one to reveal some exceptional news. 

Ms. Botkin spent time learning about adapted physical education at Illinois State University before she began her career at Rupley Elementary, and a former professor was recently the first to alert her to statewide recognition of her work. 

Each year, the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (IAHPERD) receives nominations for the top physical educators across Illinois and selects a Teacher of the Year in multiple categories. Earlier this month, IAHPERD announced that Ms. Botkin has been chosen as the 2021 Illinois Adapted P.E. Teacher of the Year. 

“My initial reaction was to just think of everyone who has helped me provide the instruction I facilitate today,” she said. “When I started at Rupley as a new graduate, I learned from the staff here and my CCSD59 colleagues every day. I continue to grow as a teacher with their support. Teamwork really does make the dream work.”

Ms. Botkin was originally named the top adapted P.E. teacher for the Northeastern District. The district, which is organized by IAHPERD, covers all of suburban Cook County. She was then placed in a final round of candidates representing each district in the state.

She has grown increasingly close to the IAHPERD network of educators as they, along with her colleagues in CCSD59, have been a key source of strength and reliability during an uncertain year. 

“Throughout this pandemic, not a day has gone by that my phone is not filled with messages from a wonderful group of P.E. teachers scattered all around the state,” Ms. Botkin said. “We have gotten each other through some of the most challenging times of teaching, all while sparking ideas in one another’s minds to keep P.E. learning focused, active, fun, and engaging.” 

For those who know her, news of the award comes as little surprise. Her passion for teaching, particularly P.E., began at a young age when she would set up obstacle courses for her sisters in “class”. She considers the opportunity to give students an enjoyable experience in physical education to be priceless, and tries to reflect that in her activities each day. 

“It is so important to find things you love and that make you happy, healthy, and kind. All of those elements can be discovered through physical education. Creating those opportunities for every student is a challenge, but the journey is so rewarding. I am honored to have a job where I get to be a piece of the puzzle in creating informed critical thinkers who are physically literate and lifelong movers no matter what program their classrooms fall under.”

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