*Editor’s note: This article was originally published Sunday in the Nonpareil’s annual Faces section, a 6-day series that concludes Saturday. The section can be found in Sunday's e-edition.
The Abbotts family is contributing to Council Bluffs Community School District on three different levels.
Brett Abbotts is principal at Roosevelt Elementary School; his wife, Kourtney, teaches English at Abraham Lincoln High School; and their son, Pierce, age 6, just finished kindergarten. Their daughter, Lorelei, is only 2 and has a few years to go before she’ll start school.
The couple just completed their second year in the district.
“I love what I’m doing as an elementary principal,” Brett said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s really, really hard sometimes, but man, it’s fun.
“Doing it in Council Bluffs is even better,” he said. “We have a lot of support, and we have a superintendent who gets it.”
Brett may aspire to reach her rank someday.
“My lifelong goal is to be a superintendent, but I don’t have a timeline on it,” he said.
Kourtney said her goal is to change kids’ lives – especially those who are “from a tough life,” she said.
“I want to see the kids succeed,” she said. “The coronavirus bug has been kind of hard, because I do love being in the classroom with the kids.”
With two educators in the house, it’s hard to avoid shop talk, Brett said.
“Sometimes I’m asking her for the teacher’s perspective, if I’m going to put out some communication or directive,” he said. “Sometimes she’s asking me more questions: ‘What should I do with a certain student? What would my principal say?’”
“I’ll have a student, and I won’t seem to be reaching them,” Kourtney said. “I’ll tell Brett, and he’ll give me some perspective.”
The two give each other feedback, Brett said.
Neither started out aiming for a career in teaching.
Brett chose the field almost arbitrarily when he found out he had to declare a major to use his golf scholarship. His sister-in-law said she thought he’d be a good teacher. He earned a teaching degree at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota and started his career as a sixth-grade teacher in that state.
During his first year as a teacher, he met Kourtney, who was then a student at Iowa State University.
“She went through for mass communications and was in the Air National Guard,” Brett said.
Kourtney became a paralegal at a Judge Advocate General compound working with a prosecutor. She also wrote up wills for people entering the military, a service the National Guard provides to them free of charge. She also worked educating military members about their rights and helping them access their benefits.
“I spent most of the day educating others,” she said.
The Guard job never became full time, so she got a job as an administrative assistant to the director of special education for Des Moines Community Schools.
As it turned out, Brett got “reduced,” so he moved to Ames and landed a job working with students with behavior issues at Southeast Polk Community Schools in Pleasant Hill, where he stayed for four years.
Unfortunately, Kourtney’s service in the Guard involved being away from home quite a bit. Besides the standard one weekend a month, she was mobilized during the flooding in Sioux City a few years ago and attended several training sessions that lasted two to six weeks.
Kourtney was at a training event at the Air Force Academy in Colorado at what turned out to be the wrong time. To make matters worse, cell phone reception was poor in the mountains.
“I missed Pierce’s first steps,” she said. “Spending six weeks away from family, especially with them that young, was not something I was going to be able to do, if I was going to build my family.”
Kourtney left the Guard in 2016 after 10 years of service thinking she might go back at some point in the future. She enrolled in a Teaching as a Second Career program through Morningside College. On completion of the program, she became an English teacher in Audubon, and Brett started teaching special education at Avoca-Hancock-Shelby Tennant Community Schools. The next year, he moved up to an assistant principal position, and Kourtney got a teaching job at AHST.
The family moved to Council Bluffs in 2018. Both Brett and Kourtney feel they are in the right profession.
“We both truly have a love and passion for education,” Kourtney said.
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