Lori Danz couldn’t be much more Superior.
After graduating from Superior High School, she earned two degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Superior — a Bachelor of Science in Broad Field Science in 1988 and a Master of Science in Education in Instruction in 2014. Danz also teaches biology part time and is the forest coordinator at her high school alma mater.
“I had thoughts of going away for college, but I knew I wanted to go into education and they had a real good program,” Danz said. “At the time, I was supporting myself and had a job that paid fairly well out of high school. I just made the decision to stay local and graduate from Superior.”
Danz’s father, Wally Wasko, also went back to school and earned a degree from UW-Superior. Her husband, Nick, is a biology professor at the school.
“We are a UW-Superior family,” she said.
Danz initially started the master’s program in 2002. However, she had to put school on hold when she had her first child. Ten years later, she returned to complete the hybrid master’s degree program.
“It’s something that I always wanted to do,” she said. “I had approximately half of my program completed but never finished it. With some encouragement from my husband, he got me back there. I had to redo some courses, but I petitioned to have a few others accepted that I had already taken. I was able to finish it up.”
Being a teacher, Danz said she prefers to be in a classroom as a student. However, the online portion of the hybrid Master of Science in Education in Instruction — which is now available fully online — certainly had its benefits.
“I very much liked the flexibility to do online work because of my work and family schedule,” she said. “It worked out beautifully to have the hybrid courses. There were some where we met a few times on campus and some of it was online. The flexibility was wonderful for me.”
Danz said she was able to apply the knowledge she was gaining in her master’s degree program courses to her classroom.
“There was one course Dr. [Suzanne] Griffith taught about cognition and teaching with the brain in mind,” she said. “I’m very interested in how people learn and how the brain works. It was one of the courses where we met a few times on campus and then online. I remember I liked that one a lot.
“The way the program was set up, half of the required courses are in our subject area, so half of the credits I needed were science-related. The other half were in education. In all cases, they were relevant. I didn’t feel like in any case I was paying for a class to get it on my transcript.”
Danz said the support level she received from UW-Superior was an essential key to her success.
“I think I questioned myself a little bit if I had the intelligence and drive to do this,” she said. “I would say, ‘Just dig in and do it.’ The support there is wonderful. It was challenging, and I really had to push myself.
“I had a wonderful adviser — Dr. Griffith. She was tough, but she was there every step of the way to support me. I think that would be true for anybody who would go there for their master’s degree. It’s a small college, so they know you really well.”
Of course, Nick and their two children, Lilly (12) and Oscar (9), provided her with additional support.
“Pretty much anybody close to me encouraged me a lot,” she said. “I think they felt proud of me.”
Danz said setting an example for their children with higher education was another benefit of earning a Master of Science in Education in Instruction from UW-Superior.
“They were a little younger when I finished, but they saw me working and saw me struggle,” she said. “We talked a lot about it. They were just getting their feet wet in school, working through those first years where they had actual homework that was a little harder for them to do sometimes. I think they know an education is important to us, and it was really good for them to watch me and see me go through that.”
Unlike most teachers, Danz does not spend all of her time in a classroom. In fact, she often has the opportunity to enjoy being outside.
“Our district has a school forest that’s about 20 miles from town,” she explained. “It’s an off-site outdoor learning school where teachers bring their classes. I work with them to schedule and plan their day depending on what they want their students to learn.”
Danz was also able to incorporate her job as forest coordinator into her master’s thesis.
“The program has been around for a long time,” she said. “Wisconsin has had a school forest program for many years. Our district had a program. They dropped it due to funding and other issues. We had this property and it was kind of my goal to make that available to teachers again.”
Danz taught for a while in Neenah, Wisconsin, before coming home to teach at Superior High School, which she said adds a lot to her career.
“I’m at an age now where any teachers I had there are retired,” she said. “It was really strange to be teaching with teachers that I had as a student. It was so hard to call them by their first name. Now, the shoe is on the other foot because there are a couple of teachers in our school I had as students when I first started teaching.”
That feeling of family certainly crosses over to UW-Superior for Danz.
“I’m not saying this because my husband works there, but I think they’ve received awards related to [alumni relations],” she said. “They really reach out to their students. They have a motto about that. It’s a small, personal atmosphere. They make their students feel welcome in the community and on campus.”
Learn more about the UW-Superior online MSE Instruction program.