Heather Cronin Ott2016 Rising Alumni

Heather Cronin Ott photo

Heather Cronin Ott has a master’s in special education and a certificate in autism spectrum disorders. She has distinguished herself by her leadership in addressing the needs of children with disabilities through her position at Karner Blue Education Center and in her volunteer activities. Heather serves on the Minnesota State Developmental/Cognitive Delay Community of Practice, and is a sought-after consultant providing expert and innovative solutions for students with complex learner profiles.


Autism Specialist
Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916

CEHD Degree

M.Ed., Special Education

What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?

I was given the opportunity to speak before the Minnesota legislature to request funding to improve staff and student safety via professional development.

I have served as one of my district's representatives on the North East Area Autism Team as well as on the DCD Region 11 Network. Being a part of these 2 communities of practice within the Minnesota Low Incidence Project has allowed me to network and learn from master teachers in my field.

Are you involved in any volunteer activities?

I regularly volunteer my time working with previous students and their families.

What's your favorite memory from UMN?

My favorite memory is when a book review I wrote in one of my Native American literature courses was published on-line. I got to call my dad and tell him he could Google me and it wouldn't be scary!

What was the impact/benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

I came to the program wanting to change the world of education in some way. I left with the skills to impact education on macro and micro levels and a strong commitment to make every moment that I have the opportunity to teach be the best I can offer.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

Brad Wing helped me learn about students with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and how important it is to critically analyze and adjust your teaching every day.

Dr. Susan Rose connected me with a family with whom I still work. She taught me the importance of advocating for my students and pushing myself to learn as much as I can.

Christine Peper inspires me to teach with passion and to do the work that is out of my comfort zone. She has helped me to learn how to teach children and adults.

Mike Piersak, my most influential principal, taught me that gentle teaching builds relationships with students and in turn builds minds. He encouraged me to try new things even when it was scary and he showed me that two people with totally different styles can work well together and make a ripple effect that goes on forever.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

To succeed as a professional you must hone your communication skills, specifically focusing on active listening. I also think it is really important to build trusting relationships with your peers. When you can do that it makes critical discussion about areas of need go much more smoothly.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you spend it?

I like to read and weed my garden. But really I love to sit in my man cave with my husband and pets and watch all kinds of movies and TV shows.

Who are you? How would others describe you?

People have called me loud, intense, and kind.

I try to live up to those adjectives as much as possible.

What is a good book you would recommend to others?

Anything by Stephen King but especially his Dark Tower series.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Albert Einstein.

What gets you excited about work?


When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Older....I never really had a plan about jobs.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

Networking and connecting with people who interest me and can teach me about things I don't know.

What's a fun fact about you?

I swear like a sailor. (My apologies to sailors if this analogy bothers you....but I bet I'd beat you in a cussing contest!)