Weather Forecast


Special education is Ellsworth grad's passion

Katie Deiss (right) has been working with students, like Olivia Boettcher, for three years now in the special education classroom at Ellsworth High School. After she graduates this week, she hopes to turn this volunteer experience into a career. - Photo by Rebecca Rudolph/Republican Eagle

ELLSWORTH -- Four years ago, a teacher made a presentation to a class of freshmen about the special education program at Ellsworth High School.

"I (wanted) to be a part of that," Katie Deiss said.

The next September Deiss walked into the special education classroom for her first day volunteering with the students.

"I was scared out of my mind," she recalled.

Now, as Deiss prepares to walk across the stage for her high school graduation May 24, she said that working in the special education classroom has been one of the most important things she has done as a student. What's more, the experience has given her a career path to pursue.

"That's what I'm going to do for my future -- that's what I'm passionate about," she said. Deiss plans to attend Winona State University in the fall to work toward a special education degree.

Over the last few years, Deiss has helped special education students learn specialized curriculum to help them succeed.

"They don't need to know math or science or things like that. They need to know how to take care of themselves, hygiene, how to count money, how to tell time, how to be polite to people, how to react in certain situations, manners. It's really just been about that," Deiss said.

Jenny Borchardt, a special education teacher at Ellsworth High School, said that Deiss' volunteer work has been beneficial for both the students and for Deiss.

"Katie's exploring the option of maybe becoming a special ed teacher so it's very good for her to explore that," Borchardt said. "But the kids really enjoy Katie and look up to her as a mentor."

Deiss' work extends beyond the classroom; she is also a volunteer floor hockey coach for the students.

Stacie Robey, a special education aide, said they really put special education students through tough training.

"We pretty much treat them like anybody else -- worked them hard, ran them hard." What is different is that the special education students normally do not understand the improvements they make when they exercise.

"They don't even get it or see it," Robey said. "You point it out to them and they're like, 'Really?'"

Deiss recently helped the students train for a 5k walk/run, which took place May 4. The 5k originally started to benefit the softball team, but this year Katie reworked it to support Special Olympics.

Deiss said that even though they may not notice their improvements, she does. That's why she wants to be a special education teacher when she graduates school.

"She's got a passion for special needs kids and a caring heart," Ellsworth Principal Mark Stoesz. "I think she'll be outstanding and hopefully (I'll) have a chance to hire her someday."

Class of 2013

What: Ellsworth High School graduation

Who: About 120 students

When: 7 p.m. May 24

Where: Ellsworth High School gym