Helping students reach their potential and succeed drew Dr. Michelle Botos to a career as an educational diagnostician.
She took that drive to another level three years ago when she came to Lamar University, where she serves as a full-time clinical instructor and educational diagnostician program coordinator.
“I have always wanted to teach at the university level, which brought me to Lamar as an adjunct professor,” she said. “Then, a full-time position became available. I love the program. It was a good time for me to move over to that in 2020.”
The area of study, which includes the online Master of Education in Special Education with Educational Diagnostician Certification program, is ideal for Dr. Botos with her combination of knowledge and real-world experience. She has helped the program since its inception, but her passion is especially in the practicum and assessments courses where she can guide future educators.
“We’ve had growth in the program,” she said. “I enjoy teaching the special education courses, but my passion is educational diagnostician courses.”
Dr. Botos also enjoys seeing the educational diagnostician program increase in popularity each year.
“It has grown by leaps and bounds,” she said. “For example, one semester, I taught 16 students. In a recent semester, I had about 700 students in the practicum courses. It’s grown substantially, which is fun.”
Connecting with students drives Dr. Botos as she builds on her career as a university professor. Her background, knowledge and experience as an educational diagnostician gives her the skills and confidence to lead students.
“I like being able to help them navigate being an educational diagnostician,” she said. “It’s unlike anything else in education. Even within special education, it’s an intricate part.”
Get up and Geaux
Dr. Botos was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and she earned degrees from three different institutions in the Bayou State. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from Louisiana Tech University in 2000, she added a master’s degree in special education at Southeastern Louisiana University five years later.
In 2013, Dr. Botos graduated with a Ph.D. in special education and assessment from Louisiana State University.
“I was a classroom teacher and then moved to [the role of] pupil appraisal educational diagnostician for years,” she said. “I still do some contract work with that now.”
Dr. Botos has also had to adjust to teaching courses online, as part of the COVID-19 pandemic and modern educational needs. She has adapted to the online format well, however.
“It’s different than being a classroom teacher,” she said. “It’s fun to guide the students and have that experience to share with them.
“Most of them are nervous because it is so different. That experience has been super helpful and calming to them.”
Plus, the M.Ed. in Special Education with Educational Diagnostician Certification online program at Lamar University lends itself to the online platform.
“It’s amazing because our students have teaching at the university level, but they also have hands-on experience within their districts,” she said. “The way our program is structured, they must be paired with a mentor at the district level. We call it triangulation.
“They’re also observed by field supervisors, who are the connection between the university and the district. They work with me, and they also work with the students within the district…The students are able to stay within their district and apply the knowledge that they’re learning.”
Preparing students to become educational diagnosticians is also exciting for Dr. Botos because the position is gaining popularity by the year.
“It’s a pretty sought-after position within most districts,” she said. “You work on the district level, so they might have a number of schools they are paired with. It’s like an administrative position without being one. You oversee a lot.
“It’s grown substantially because there are a lot of federal regulations that mandate it within special education. Our duties as educational diagnosticians continue to grow.
“Most recently, they added dyslexia. Before, a different team handled dyslexia, but it now falls under the umbrella of an educational diagnostician. It’s definitely evolved,” she said.
Away from work, Dr. Botos has plenty on her plate, too. She and her husband, Ben, have six children — Marcus (21), Mallory (18), Addison (15), Brennan (13), Molly Faith (9) and Ellie (1).
“Ben and I enjoy spending time with them,” she said. “We do foster care, so we always have additional kids. We enjoy that, plus spending time on the water.”
Dr. Botos knows that she has taken the ideal career path for her journey, and she has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
“Doing what I am doing at Lamar University is my ultimate career goal. I love it. It’s been perfect.”