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Superior educator tapped to represent Wisconsin as a National Teacher of the Year

Lori Danz teaches high school biology and is the district's school forest coordinator.

Lori Danz, the Superior School Forest coordinator and science teacher at Superior High School, leads students in an exercise
Lori Danz, the Superior School Forest coordinator and science teacher at Superior High School, leads students in an exercise at the school forest in November 2021.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A Superior teacher will represent Wisconsin on a national scale.

Lori Danz, who teaches biology at Superior High School and is the school forest coordinator for the Superior School District, was one of five educators named Teacher of the Year for the state. The Department of Public Education announced Monday, Aug. 22, that she was chosen from among the five to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year Program.

'One in a million': Superior teacher Lori Danz named Wisconsin Teacher of the Year

“When I first met Lori, I was so impressed by her ability to inspire her students to think critically and creatively about the natural world around them. We had the pleasure of visiting the school forest with her students, and I agree with them — there really is something magical about learning science in the woods,” State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly said in the news release. “After seeing her passion for outdoor education and how she builds community in her district, I am so excited that she is going to represent Wisconsin educators at the national level.”

Superior High School science teacher Lori Danz, left, talks to the crowd of students, staff and family that came to surprise her as Wisconsin State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly holds a microphone during a surprise ceremony
Superior High School science teacher Lori Danz, left, talks to the crowd of students, staff and family that came to surprise her as Wisconsin State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly holds a microphone during a surprise ceremony at the Superior School Forest naming Danz a Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Danz, who has more then 20 years of experience in education, said she was shocked to hear the news.

“To be the one of us to represent the state nationally is a little daunting, but I plan to do everything I can to spread the word about the positive things happening in Wisconsin and to show people how dedicated the teachers in our district and state are,” Danz said. “I just hope the rest of the state will accept my northern Wisconsin accent.”

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As Wisconsin’s National Teacher of the Year representative, Danz will receive $6,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation and will participate alongside other state representatives in various professional learning opportunities. She will serve as a state Teacher of the Year for the 2022-2023 school year, and at the national level from January 2023 to January 2024, roughly a year and a half in total.

The honor is a reflection on the district as a whole, Danz said — from the incredible support of district administration to the remarkable work teachers do at the forest with their students.

“I may be ‘the face’ of the school forest in our district, but the program would not be successful and recognized statewide if not for the belief of its importance as it relates to teaching our students. My recognition is truly a recognition of all of their hard work and the district's support,” she said.

Lori Danz, front left, the Superior School Forest coordinator and science teacher at Superior High School, poses with part of Andy Wolfe and Christa Kalin’s journalism class at the school forest
Lori Danz, front left, the Superior School Forest coordinator and science teacher at Superior High School, poses with part of Andy Wolfe and Christa Kalin’s journalism class at the school forest in November 2021. The class spent the day at the school forest to work on team building activities.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Wisconsin teachers of the year are asked to develop a platform, be advocates for public education and representatives of the great things happening in public schools. Danz said she wants to share the importance of outdoor education as a way to integrate the content that is taught in traditional classrooms.

“I believe that we can use the outdoors also as a way to help our students suffering from social and emotional stress,” Danz said.

The other message she hopes to share with both the state and the nation is that teachers and parents truly want the same things for children.

“I say this as both a parent who sends my kids to school and as a teacher. We want our kids to be safe. We want them to learn and to be challenged. We want them to be happy at school and for school to be a place that is enjoyable to them, where they are supported by both their peers and their teachers,” Danz said. “Recently, there seems to be political discourse that is causing us to be skeptical of those beliefs, but in my deepest beliefs, I know teachers and parents will continue to support each other as we have, in Superior, throughout my career.”

Visit the Council of Chief State School Officer’s website for more information on the National Teacher of the Year program.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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