She took a semester off and went home. Then, she clearly saw her career path — working with special needs children like her brother. “When I left La Crosse, I realized that this is something I am good at,” she said.
Hansen decided to become a special education teacher. “I can think back to all my brother’s teachers and how they played such an important role in his life,” she said.
After hearing good things about UW-Stout’s special education program, she enrolled in 2017. This time, there was no second-guessing. Hansen graduated with her bachelor’s degree Dec. 19.
Her search for the right career came full circle on commencement day. Because of the pandemic, UW-Stout’s commencement for 637 graduates was virtual. That meant, with
no in-person ticket limit, Hansen could be with Dayton at home and the rest of her family when her name was read virtually for graduates from the College of Education, Hospitality, Health and Human Sciences.
They celebrated not just Hansen’s accomplishment but that she is the first from her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. “It felt amazing. I felt like all my hard work had paid off,” Hansen said.
Assistant Professor Sharon Becker said Hansen set an excellent example for everyone in the program.
“She has been an inspiration not only to us as faculty but to her peers. Her dedication and passion for pursuing her degree and starting her teaching career is evident in all that she is and does. She never gave up and strongly advocated not only for herself but for others as she pushed through roadblocks to the finish line,” said Becker, the program director.
“I know that she will carry that determination and dedication into her teaching and supporting students with special needs and their families,” Becker added.
Becker has seen Hansen’s commitment to special education as the program’s student ambassador — speaking to potential new students and coordinating program events — and as a peer mentor. Hansen volunteered for two years with the local Thursday Night Thrill Seekers special needs group. Also, she worked part time for two years at the Arc of Dunn County, which provides services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Hansen is hoping for a full-time teaching position come fall 2021. Wisconsin has a shortage of special education teachers.
She’s thankful for her education and for professors like Becker and Rebecca Marine, who “were there all the time, have great wisdom and just want us to become great teachers.
“I learned everything I needed to know about special education at Stout. Professors answered every question and worked with me in every way. There isn’t one class or teacher I didn’t like in my core classes,” Hansen said.
The special education program is one of 14 undergraduate and graduate teaching programs in UW-Stout’s School of Education.