|Hometown: Gladstone, MI|
Since her high school days, Bay College graduate Nanette Hanson has had a desire to teach. With the skills she learned at Bay, she was able to make this dream a reality – and was recently acclaimed by the State of Michigan for her efforts.
As a Gladstone native, Nanette graduated from Gladstone Area High School in 1989. That fall, she went to University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. However, she left that college the following year.
“I just found it difficult as a first-year student. It was harder than I anticipated, being on my own. So, I moved back home to get the support that I needed,” she said.
After returning to Gladstone, she began studying at Bay College during the fall 1990 semester. She said the year she spent there was a highly positive experience.
“Bay offered me the opportunity to build on my educational studies while enjoying small class sizes and individualized instruction. I took my basic courses and elective classes while I attended Bay. I also had the opportunity to observe passionate teachers in the classroom and gain an understanding of the teaching profession. I was able to live at home and save money, raise my grades, and transfer up to Northern Michigan University the following year,” Nanette said.
As a Bay student, Nanette majored in education – a field she said she had been interested in for quite some time.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. It was a passion of mine that was set in motion by some great teachers I had in high school,” she said.
In the fall of 1991, Nanette transferred to NMU to continue working towards a career in education.
“I used Bay College as a stepping-stone before I transferred to Northern Michigan University to get my BS in Elementary Education. I was even able to get a transfer scholarship which helped me to pay for my education. The foundational education that I received at Bay helped me to develop the job skills necessary to enter the workforce and to become a teacher,” she said.
Nanette earned her bachelor’s degree from NMU in 1994 and went on to get her master’s there in 2005. Before starting on the latter degree, she began working as a teacher in the Escanaba school system.
“I started teaching at an alternative high school after getting my bachelor’s, and I went on to teach in various positions over the years. For the last 17 years, I’ve been teaching at Lemmer Elementary School in Escanaba as a first-grade teacher,” she said.
She said her current position has been one of the highlights of her career.
“It’s a true passion of mine, to get to school and establish those meaningful relationships with kids and watch them love learning. I love connecting with students and building those connections with families – it’s my favorite part of teaching,” Nanette said.
Her experiences at Bay helped her prepare for the role she works in today.
“I was given the opportunity at Bay to do some job-shadowing in the classrooms with teachers, and I got to see passionate teachers in the classroom. I gained a nice understanding of what the teaching profession looked like in action, and I was able to transfer those skills in my own personal journey as a teacher,” Nanette said.
While her job has been rewarding on its own, Nanette has also received serious recognition for her work. She was named Michigan Teacher of the Year for the 2022-2023 school year.
“Nanette is a life-changing educator who has been serving her community for 26 years and counting. We are thrilled to honor Nanette as Michigan’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year and grateful to educators across Michigan who consistently go above and beyond for their kids. Thank you, Nanette, for creating a space for students to – in your own words – have the freedom to be themselves and be celebrated for all that they are. We will continue making historic education investments to build on the work teachers like Nanette do every day to uplift their students,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a press release about the award.
After being anonymously nominated for this honor, Nanette went through a rigorous, multi-stage process over several months. Eventually, she was named one of 10 regional finalists and traveled to Lansing for additional interviews.
Finally, Nanette was chosen as Michigan’s Teacher of the Year. State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice personally traveled to Escanaba to tell her – and the rest of her school – about the achievement.
“They did a surprise assembly at my school to announce it to me. I did not know I was chosen, but they came to Lemmer Elementary to announce it. It was a real whirlwind of a day,” she said.
Nanette said she would not have been able to get to where she is today without the support she has received from fellow teachers – on both the K-12 and college levels.
“I feel incredibly grateful and excited for the opportunities that are going to be presented to me in the coming years, and it feels good to know that people appreciate teachers. I work with so many wonderful professionals, and I think we’re all amazing teachers and educators – it’s nice to be an ambassador for teachers everywhere, so we can get the word out about the importance that teachers play in our community,” she said.