Lori Danz, a biology teacher and school forest coordinator at Superior High School in Wisconsin, was recently named the 2023 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year. The surprise announcement came during what she thought would be a routine day overseeing a spy-themed lesson with the Superior High School CSI class and fifth graders from Lake Superior Elementary School.
As Danz drove up to the school forest in her truck, she was greeted with a clearing full of students, teachers, school board members, and her family. Overwhelmed with emotion, Danz expressed gratitude for the recognition, saying, “Very few teachers get recognized for the hard work that they do, in and out, every day. Those teachers do as much or more as I do. So this is for everybody, really.”
The 2023 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year’s impact extends beyond her biology classroom. She has been instrumental in creating an outdoor learning classroom in the school forest that students of all ages can enjoy. Danz believes that nature is a tool that can be used to teach a variety of subjects, from writing and art to math and science. “What’s special about this place is it’s everything,” she said.
Lori Danz’s ability to connect with students of all ages and abilities has made her a beloved figure in the school district. Students speak highly of her positive attitude and passion for teaching. “I’ve never had her as a teacher at the school, but she’s always been super supportive and helpful every time we come out to the school forest,” said SHS junior Lucia Brue. “She always made everything fun.”
The school forest coordinator’s dedication to her students and the community has not gone unnoticed. Wisconsin Superintendent Jill Underly praised Danz’s ability to inspire her students and make an impact in the community. “The inspiration that she brings to the students, especially in nature, and through this outdoor classroom and talking with the kids, reading more about her, we knew that she was really one in a million,” Underly said.
For Danz, being named Teacher of the Year is more than just an award. It’s an opportunity to advocate for public education and inspire others. “The things that Lori is doing here are so cool and impact so many students and she has some really great stories to share with folks,” said Erin Forrest, educator recognition coordinator for Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Lori Danz’s impact on the students and community of Superior High School is undeniable. Her ability to connect with students of all ages and abilities, and her dedication to using nature as a tool for learning, has made her a beloved figure in the school district. As the 2023 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, Danz will have a platform to share her stories and advocate for public education.