Holding considerable expertise in special education, Kay Cowie was first inspired to her career as a result of her childhood friendship with a neighbor girl who was disabled. Pursuing an education at Northern State University, it took her a few semesters to settle on her specific major. When she finally hit on working with children with disabilities, she knew exactly what she wanted to do for the rest of her career and earned a Bachelor of Science in special education in 1968. After spending a year as a second grade teacher in Brentford, South Dakota, she returned to Northern State University and obtained a Master of Science in special education in 1970, at the age of 23. She has been certified in general education for grades K-6 and is additionally licensed to teach Spanish; as an educational diagnostician; as a director, coordinator and supervisor for special education programs; and as a reading specialist.
In 1970, Ms. Cowie began work as a reading specialist in her hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota, before transitioning to work as a special educator for the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1971. Following this, she joined Converse County School District in Wyoming as a special educator in 1974 and the Albany County School District as a special education specialist in 1988, where she was also the principal of the special education summer program and a special education case manager and trainer. She taught in public schools until 2000. Since 1999, she has proffered her expertise as an advocate for children with disabilities, working with school districts and/or one-on-one with parents.
Toward the end of her time teaching in public schools, Ms. Cowie joined the University of Wyoming as a part-time lecturer for evening classes. Starting in 1993, she served in this role until she accepted a full-time position as a senior lecturer in the College of Education, a role she held until she retired as senior lecturer emeritus in 2013. During this tenure, she also spent time as the department chair of special education and a coordinator. She continued to teach in an adjunct capacity on and off between 2013 and 2018, and returned for the January semester of 2021 as well.
For excellence in her career, Ms. Cowie has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades. The University of Wyoming has recognized her as a Teacher of the Year, an Academic Adviser of the Year, and presented her with an Outstanding Service Profession Award and a Profession Award. In light of her decades of accomplishments, she has received the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor conferred by Marquis Who’s Who.
Above all these honors, Ms. Cowie is proud to have been involved in a huge grant to develop a disability awareness program in an effort to curb classroom bullying in her local Wyoming school districts. Another major career highlight came when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act came up for reauthorization and the University of Wyoming was selected as one of seven locations nation-wide to seek public input on the act. Her position as department chair of special education allowed her to work closely with the federal program representatives for the event. Furthermore, she has always found her position as an advocate for children to be incredibly gratifying as is seeing her own students grow up to become special educators in their own right.
Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, to parents Roy and Mary Kraft, Ms. Cowie was herself married and considers her crowning achievement to be her two wonderful sons, Rob and Reed. Through them she is also a grandmother to two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Looking toward the future, she plans to stay in Laramie, Wyoming, for a while longer and then eventually make a move to Washington state to live near family.