Interim Bozeman High Principle Katie Laslovich

Interim Bozeman High Principal Katie Laslovich hugs her mentor, retiring Bozeman High math teacher Laura Horton, at a Recognition Ceremony on Thursday at Willson Auditorium.

Several Bozeman High School teachers are retiring this year, prompting Katie Laslovich to joke that maybe her administrative team is driving people away.

Laslovich, the high school’s assistant principal, was called on to serve as interim principal of Montana’s largest high school when Principal Kevin Conwell was paralyzed last fall by a polio-like virus.

“I want to thank Katie for stepping in this year and doing a phenomenal job,” Andy Willett, school board chair, said at the district’s recognition assembly at Willson Auditorium on the last day of school.

Hundreds of teachers and staff members applauded for friends and colleagues who were retiring, departing or who won awards in the past year.

Laslovich herself won the 2019 Assistant Principal of the Year award from the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals. She was chosen for her personal excellence, collaborative leadership and instructional leadership, said Pat Strauss, human resources director.

It was Conwell, now retired, a “huge mentor to all of us,” who nominated her for the award, Laslovich said.

“I was honored and humbled by it,” she said.

When the disease suddenly hit Conwell, Laslovich said, everyone was shocked and saddened. It was “definitely a challenge and opportunity for the entire team,” she said, to keep the school, not just afloat, but moving forward. The staff is planning for 2020, when the new high school will open and the faculty and student body will be split in two.

“Everybody stepped up in some way,” she said. “We did it together.”

“If anything we learned how to be flexible and how to embrace challenge and change.”

The daughter of educators, Laslovich, 42, has worked in education for 17 years.

“I can’t imaging doing anything else as challenging and rewarding,” she said.

At Bozeman High since 2005, she taught math, became a dean and four years ago an assistant principal. She also was a head volleyball coach and a track coach, until she gave birth to twin boys. She and her husband, high school dean Nate Laslovich, also have two older boys.

“That’s when I stopped coaching,” she said and laughed.

Laslovich said she’s from Missoula, played volleyball for the University of Montana and is “a Griz through and through.”

On Friday, students were gone but high school teachers were busy with grading, packing up their classrooms and holding their last faculty meeting. Laslovich, who will serve next year as one of three assistant principals under the new principal, Dan Mills, said they’re planning to approach next school year as “a celebration – our last year all together.”

At Thursday’s assembly, Laslovich spoke with wit and warmth about each retiring Bozeman High teacher and shared several anecdotes.

She recalled the Run Lock Fight training day when retiring activities director Jerry Reisig threw a chair at the “armed intruder” in a padded suit, knocking him to the ground. Then she attacked, too. It turned out the man in the suit was her husband.

The audience applauded and cheered for Laslovich and other teachers and staff members who won awards during the past year:

  • Tonya Shonkwiler, Joey Hancock and Ed Barry of Bozeman High’s special education program were honored for the 2018 Unified School Champion Award for promoting inclusion, respect and dignity for all students, whether or not they have disabilities.
  • Dacia Lackey, a Hyalite Elementary School fifth-grade teacher, won the 2018 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Honored for teaching math, Lackey was one of two Montana teachers to earn the nation’s highest award in teaching science, technology, engineering, math or computer science. Each awardee received a trip to Washington, D.C., $10,000 award and presidential citation.
  • Hawthorne Elementary School received the Solution Tree Model School award for its Professional Learning Community. Principal Casey Bertram accepted on behalf of the whole teaching staff. In a professional learning community, teachers work collaboratively to research, learn and act on ways to achieve better results for students.
  • Glenn Bradbury, Bozeman High engineering and architectural graphics teacher, received the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association 2019 Award for program excellence for Montana. Carl Poeschl won the 2019 ITEEA award for teacher excellence for Montana.
  • Rob Watson, outgoing superintendent, won the 2019 Superintendent of the Year award from the Montana Association of School Superintendents.
  • Mike Waterman, business services director, won the 2018 Montana School Business Official of the Year award.
  • Bozeman High School won the 2019 Project Lead the Way Distinguished School award for its biomedical and engineering classes, led by teachers Amy Washtak, Dawn Drahos, Candy Barton, Glenn Bradbury and Eric Humberger.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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