Mary Hegge knew she had found her true calling when she went to work for a day care soon after her high school graduation.
“I loved it, but I kept running into parents who didn’t go out of their way to put you down, but they kind of made you feel like you weren’t really a teacher — you were just babysitting,” she said. “That really bothered me.”
Hegge responded by earning an associate degree in early childhood education and going to work for a 4K (four-year-old kindergarten) school. Then, the same problem reappeared.
“I was a long-term sub while the regular teacher was out on maternity leave,” Hegge said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Well, you don’t have a degree.’ I wanted to have my own classroom because I don’t want another person to know how that felt.
“I don’t want somebody else to feel like just because they don’t have a four-year degree they are not a vital piece of a child’s education. I knew I could make that difference as a teacher. I always loved kids.”
Hegge won’t ever have to worry about facing that roadblock again.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in May 2016, and she is currently working toward a Master of Science (MSE) in Education focused on Educational Administration through UW-Superior’s online program.
Hegge was a full-time student as she earned the bachelor’s degree online. She said the online format worked out perfectly by allowing her to take a full load of courses and still spend time with her husband Taylor and their sons, Markus (17), Sean (10) and James (2).
“It was an accelerated pace that was easy to fit in around family commitments and children,” she said. “It allowed me to be able to volunteer to do things in the boys’ classroom and still be able to do my work and homework.
“I was going to wait until our youngest was in kindergarten [to start the master’s program]. Then, I was thinking about it like, ‘Why wait? I have that school mentality right now.’ I saw that UW-Superior’s master’s in educational administration, which was what I wanted, came online. So I thought, ‘Why not just go for it now?'”
Hegge is back in school while in her first year teaching kindergarten full-time at Keshena Primary School in the Menominee Indian School District in Wisconsin. She says the transition to attending school while working has been surprisingly smooth.
“It’s been really good,” she said. “I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I love the pacing of it. It’s really designed to be done while you’re working and while you have those other commitments.
“I’m just finishing up my one class. It’s not like I have to juggle work, five courses and homework for all of them. I’m focusing on one course, which is nice because it makes it easier to really concentrate on. You don’t feel like, ‘I have a chapter to read for each class and this and that. You can actually take in the information a little bit more.”
Among all of the UW-Superior courses she has taken, Hegge said she has enjoyed the ones that dealt with special needs and poverty the most.
“I love reaching out to all of those different students,” Hegge said. “It’s easy to teach a student who is easily taught, the ones that are sitting quiet and their parents are checking their folder every night. It’s those other ones you really want to reach. Superior had wonderful professors that actively searched for best practices to teach you those things.”
The Right Choice
I emailed some questions about it, and they were super responsive and made you feel like they wanted you to be there, that you weren’t just a number in a cohort. They wanted you in class.”
Hegge said several factors added up to make UW-Superior the perfect school to meet all of her needs.
“I’m in the state of Wisconsin and wanted a program that would lead to licensure,” she said. “The timing was perfect, the cost was perfect and everything.
“I emailed some questions about it, and they were super responsive and made you feel like they wanted you to be there, that you weren’t just a number in a cohort. They wanted you in class.”
Before she started her first full-time teaching job, she got some hands-on experience in the classroom through the online Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education curriculum.
“With most all of the program classes, I had to do hours in a classroom where I went in and observed,” Hegge said. “It was nice because I got to see many different grades and many different teachers. You really got to see things in action and decide, ‘oh, that works great’ or ‘oh, I want to do something else.'”
Showing Her Work
Hegge said her entire family was happy to see her continue to work so hard to achieve her career goals, even if her decision to go back to school was a bit unexpected at first.
“When I graduated, they were like, ‘Are you done?'” she said. “My husband asked, ‘Are you done?’ He wasn’t quite as surprised when I told him I was going back for my master’s as when I told him I was going for my undergrad. I kind of surprised him with it the first time. I literally came home one night and said, ‘I want to be a teacher. I want to go back to school. And I want to quit work to do it.'”
Hegge, who enjoys running and hopes to eventually compete in a marathon, was also happy to set a good example for her children and their future education.
“We always told them, ‘Whether you get a two-year degree or a four-year degree or whatever your choice is, explore your options and do something because it can be hard to go back when you take time off,'” she said. “There were so many times when you’re pulling five classes and you’re tired, you’re up at midnight and doing homework when you want to quit, but you can’t — you have all of those little eyes watching you.”
As Hegge continues to fulfill her calling to teach, she’ll have lots of little eyes on her for a long time.
Learn more about the UW-Superior online MSE in Educational Administration program.
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