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Alumnae Awarded Educator of the Month

September 7, 2021

Stephanie Hanson was born a teacher. Her earliest memories involve setting up a classroom in her bedroom and subjecting her siblings to playing school. “My mom bought me a chalkboard and a teacher’s grade book from a rummage sale,” she recalls, “and I would have class for them regularly. I would use my allowance to buy trinkets from the dollar store to bribe them into letting me teach them. As far back as I can remember, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

For the past seven years, Stephanie has been a special education teacher at Merrill Elementary School, earning the praise of her fellow faculty and her building principal.

Stephanie Hanson pictured in classroom

“Stephanie is a true leader in the building,” says Brandye Hereford, the Principal of Merrill Elementary. “She works with all stakeholders in the building to make sure that Merrill is a better place for students each day. Stephanie always treats students respectfully and goes over and beyond expectations when working with her student on grade-level content. Her problem-solving approach and student-centered attitude help make Merrill a positive place for our students. During distance learning, Stephanie kept in contact with families and did a great job modifying grade level lessons for her students.”

Over the summer, Stephanie was awarded the Beloit Rotary Educator of the Month for her outstanding work. Like most teachers, she puts her heart and soul into what she does every day. “I don’t do it for the recognition at all. I do it because I love to do it. And just seeing that other people do notice and do care. It was nice.”

Even though teaching was her dream, it wasn’t until her oldest son started in the Head Start program that Stephanie began to consider higher education. While Stephanie was volunteering in her son’s classroom, the Head Start teachers noticed Stephanie’s skills and encouraged her to pursue a degree in education.

“As a parent of two children, at that time, I did not think education, college was something that I could do,” she recalls. “But my Aunt Donna explained that Blackhawk has wonderful programming and grants and loans, and she got me hyped up once I realized that it was an option for me. I went the very next day and met with a counselor and enrolled in classes.”

Her instructors at BTC remember the student Stephanie was and continue to be impressed with the work she’s doing. “She inspires me with her kindness and passion,” says Michelle Weirich, BTC Early Childhood Instructor. “She truly has made a difference in the lives of people through her community service and work at the school.”

After completing her work in the ECE program at Blackhawk, Michelle encouraged Stephanie to keep going. “Michelle explained to me the great collaboration that Blackhawk has with Whitewater and encouraged me to continue after graduation,” Stephanie remembers. “I just needed that opening. I went to Whitewater right after she talked to me about it, met with a counselor, and figured out a plan to take that bridge. The summer after I graduated from BTC, I started at Whitewater.”

Graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education, Stephanie is now qualified to teach students from birth through third grade in regular or special education. After seven years at Merrill, she is transferring to Powers Elementary school to teach first grade in the same district her four children attend.

Stephanie’s two oldest children are now teenagers and considering what their career paths might be. Her son is currently an apprentice at Frito Lay and plans to attend a welding program. At the same time, her daughter is debating between a career in education and a career in medicine. Fully aware of how her journey has impacted her family’s future, Stephanie knows that if she hadn’t taken that first step of enrolling at Blackhawk, her children would not be considering these kinds of careers.

While recognizing the challenges of jumping into a new career, Stephanie would encourage those considering a career change to just do it. “You will not regret it,” she says. “Your family will benefit so much from you going back; you will benefit so much from going back. Many things changed in my life, from that first choice of going back to moving from a small apartment to now owning my own home and having my dream job. I am happy to say that I have built a life that I love, and it took that first step.”

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