Volunteer in the Spotlight: Katie McQuone Botello

katie mcquone at oscars with friends
Sunnyside High teacher and Filmworks volunteer Katie McQuone Botello (center) hits the Oscar shorts red carpet with her Sunnyside colleague Joshua Medrano (left) and husband Sonny Botello.

December 2019 Volunteer in the Spotlight: Katie McQuone Botello

Occupation: Katie teaches video production and broadcasting at her high school alma mater, Sunnyside High School, in southeast Fresno. She coordinates Sunnyside’s Video Production Academy.

This past December, Katie was surprised with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for her outstanding teaching and mentoring work at Sunnyside.

Since September 2018, Katie has served on the Filmworks advisory board, assisting with youth outreach initiatives. She’s also a frequent volunteer at CMAC, the Community Media Access Collaborative.

What does the Milken Family Foundation recognition, which many consider the “Oscars of Teaching,” mean to you?

Katie: The Milken award was a huge surprise to me. I had never heard of the Milken Foundation or the award before the day of receiving it. I just love what I do, so it seems crazy to me to get awarded for that. But I will be honest, the money is pretty cool too!

What are some things you enjoy doing in your free time?

Katie: Well obviously, I love TV and movies. I can spend hours binge-watching! In fact, I binge-watched a ton over the winter break.

I’m a sucker for true-crime shows, and I got sucked into a miniseries called “Don’t F**k with Cats” on Netflix, about hunting an Internet killer. If you can get past the name, it is one of the craziest and most disturbing shows I have ever watched. I think that’s why I liked it so much, because I couldn’t get over the fact that everything I was watching actually happened in real life.

I also love to cook for my husband, Sonny, and to travel. We try to plan a few big trips a year to see as much of the world as possible.

What’s one of your favorite all-time movies and why?

Katie: That question’s too hard! I am a huge fan of Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman. You can pretty much name any of their movies and I could watch them over and over. I enjoy dramas and thrillers, but I also love a timeless story that I can watch over and over.

For example: “Forrest Gump.” It’s just a feel-good. Tom Hanks is a fun guy, and his character Forrest makes me happy. I also caught myself watching “A League of Their Own” on TV the other day. It took me back to being at my mom’s house watching movies in the ’90s, when I was in middle school and high school.

How and when did you get started volunteering with Filmworks?

Katie: I officially started volunteering with Filmworks in the fall of 2018, when I joined the advisory board. But I had been involved for several years, after Gloria Burrola first reached out and invited my Sunnyside video class to see the Oscar-nominated animation short films years ago. We have come every year since!

When they put out a call for volunteers and advisory board members on Facebook, I jumped at the opportunity. I couldn’t wait to get more involved, since Filmworks has been so generous to my students and me.

What is your typical volunteer experience like with Filmworks?

Katie: Volunteering with Filmworks is fun, and my husband and my mom sometimes volunteer too. Every time I work the bar or at the concession stand, I meet new people and have great conversations. The cherry on top is getting to watch great films at the end of the night. 

What’s your favorite movie you’ve seen at the Tower Theatre, Filmworks or otherwise?

Katie: Every year, the Oscar-nominated animation short films are so much fun to watch. I love to have discussions with my students after the screening to hear which film they think is going to take the Oscar. Besides the animations, my favorite movie to date was “Faces Places.” The friendship between JR and Agnès Varda was so sweet, and I remember leaving the theater so happy after watching that film. 

What types of movies would you like to see Filmworks show more of?

Katie: I really believe the team who selects the films does a fantastic job of showing a wide range of films. You can’t see the films that Filmworks screens anywhere else locally in the theater. Filmworks should keep it up, because I love the films they show.

What films are you most excited to see next in theaters?

Katie: I am still trying to get caught up on 2019 movies. I don’t really have my eye on anything in particular for 2020 yet. But when I can, I always make sure to check out Cindy Peters Duzi’s Instagram for honest reviews of all the current films she has seen. 

Why should people consider volunteering with Filmworks?

Katie: Volunteering with Filmworks is a great way to give back to the arts community. It doesn’t require that much of your time, and you get way more out of it than you put in. If you are a fan of film, Filmworks is where you should be!

Filmworks thanks our December 2019 volunteers: Teule Bell, Jr., Teule Bell, Sr., Nené Casares, Bryan Harley, Rebecca Horwitz, Monica Marks, Anne McGowan, Conde McGowan, Stan Morita, Donna Mott, Steve Ohanesian, Roque Rodriguez, Lorraine Tomerlin, Willie Trotter.

Filmworks thanks our November 2019 volunteers: Jackie Aldern, Daniel Armenta, Jefferson Beavers, Teule Bell, Jr., Teule Bell, Sr., Sonny Botello, Gloria Burrola, Nené Casares, John Dunning, Will Freeney, Wade French, Judy Haber, Karen Hammer, Nou Her, Duran Hernandez, Rebecca Horwitz, Neal Howard, Carl Johnsen, Kathryn Johnsen, Yia Lee, Ronnie Lopez, Monica Marks, Peter McDonald, Ann McGowan, Conde McGowan, Katie McQuone Botello, Lisa McQuone, Stan Morita, Donna Mott, Sher Moua, Amira Noble, Steve Ohanesian, Luis Ojeda, Johnny Pecina, Danilo Penate, Gene Richards, Marina Rodriguez, Diego Santiago Ruiz, Lorraine Tomerlin, Willie Trotter, Viri Trujillo.

Filmworks thanks our October 2019 volunteers: Jefferson Beavers, Amara Bell, Teule Bell Sr., Nené Casares, Judy Haber, Duran Hernandez, Neal Howard, Kathryn Johnsen, Julie Linxwiller, Conde McGowan, Katie McQuone Botello, Donna Mott, Gene Richards, Lorraine Tomerlin.

Filmworks thanks our September 2019 volunteers: Cleo Bauer, Jefferson Beavers, Amara Bell, Teule Bell Jr., Teule Bell Sr., Duran Hernandez, Monica Marks, Katie McQuone Botello, Donna Mott, Steve Ohanesian, Luis Ojeda, Dominic Papagni, Gene Richards, Lorraine Tomerlin, Viri Trujillo.