SMSD Teacher’s Passion for STEM Started Early

Learning never stops for Brenda Bott, Teacher/Coordinator at Shawnee Mission School District’s (SMSD) Biotechnology Signature Program. After 40 years of teaching, she considers herself more as a facilitator guiding students down the STEM path and connecting them to talented minds in science and technology.

Bott grew up on a working farm in North Central Kansas with livestock at the very heart of their livelihood and business. She soaked in the science surrounding her life on the farm from morning to night. She would always be at her father’s side, despite his urgings to go back in the house – but she rarely listened. As a child, she saw herself growing up to be a veterinarian.  She fondly recalls watching a veterinarian come out to the farm and work with her horse or the cattle. She was fascinated by the vaccinations, dehorning, and his work with the animals.

She graduated high school in the seventies, and although she doesn’t remember anyone specifically telling her that a woman couldn’t become a vet, she recalls being guided towards nursing, medical technology, or teaching. “Those were the open doors if you had a drive towards science,” Bott said.  She began pursuing a degree in nursing but decided to change course toward her passion and get a Biology degree.

In her current role at Shawnee Mission School District’s Biotechnology Signature Program, she gives her students the tools they need to be productive and functioning professionals in STEM careers. When she has a student who wants to do a specific type of research, or if she is trying something new in the lab, she has a community of professionals, like the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI), to lean on. She will bring in a working professional to answer with current and industry applicable information. “KCALSI has gone above and beyond my expectations. To the point that I am not afraid of implementing something new,” Bott said. “I use that network to come talk to my students. But I think I am the student in the room that has learned the most.”

“When I take my students through animal and medical science I just want them to understand that they can do anything. Regardless of their gender, race, or their academic ability when they are in high school. If they want it, they can make it happen,” Bott says.

To learn more about SMSD Biotechnology Signature Program, click here.


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