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Teacher Profile: Chris Bottomley, 4th Grade

Chris Bottomley has spent years as a flexible educator focused on providing immersive learning experiences for students of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. With an emphasis on community building, multi-sensory learning, and real-world problem solving, his classroom empowers students to see themselves as capable and connected.

Chris Bottomley came to teaching “kind of accidentally. I’d given up on being an economist and I was tuning skis in Vermont. I met someone incredibly passionate about teaching writing and literature, and at their suggestion, started doing afterschool programing at an all girls’ therapeutic boarding school.”

This turned into a full-time job where Chris stayed for four years, during which time he earned his Masters in the summers at the Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College. 

In 2020, Chris moved to the Hudson Valley and his daughter began school at High Meadow. He started working at HMS the following fall, first as middle school math teacher, then middle school coordinator, and now, at the helm of the 4th grade. 

“The combination of High Meadow and 4th grade really aligns well with where I’ve arrived in my philosophy and approach. I have the ability to create not just lessons or units, but actual experiences filled with education and learning opportunities – much more integrated than they would be if I had to fit within a more traditional structure.”

For example, this year, Chris and his class revived High Meadow’s tradition of maple sugaring. The process of identifying and tapping the trees on our campus, collecting sap, and boiling and tasting the product proved fertile ground for exploring the scientific process, mathematical conversions, and descriptive vocabulary about aroma and texture.

Chris recalls the morning after the class had set their taps: “We went out and it was the first time the kids got to see the buckets full of sap. It wasn’t just that something had happened, but that something significant had happened.” In that moment, he saw the students begin to believe “that we were really going to pull this off.”

The project also turned out to be an excellent vehicle for community building. At the beginning of the process, a new student happened to join the class. “Part of what was so perfect,” Chris says, was that maple sugaring “was something new for all of them, with a shared sense of wonder. There was tons of hands-on engagement, excitement was high, the learning was active, and everybody was working toward a common goal.” 

Other grades stopped by the fire during boiling times, sharing tastes of sap at various stages, and when the syrup was complete, 4th graders hosted their “buddies” in the Nursery 3s class for a pancake meal.

“One of the most important skills we can pass on is helping kids develop a better sense of the connection between their experience of the world and their understanding of the world,” Chris says. “When we talk about subjects like math, history, literature, we are talking about specific sets of skills for solving real problems in the world. Having the kids for all subjects helps me empower them to be powerful agents of change.”

Along with his classroom teaching, Chris continues to work with our students after school, offering sports like cross country, ultimate frisbee, and this year, basketball, as well as culinary arts classes and camps. 


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