A rewarding career

A rewarding career

UW-Superior graduate looks back on several decades in the Wisconsin school system

Throughout his several decades working in the Wisconsin school system, Scott Johnson has worn many hats. Among them: teacher, principal and superintendent.

He tried to retire in 2022, but his retirement lasted less than a week. Now, he serves as the Court Administrator for the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Tribe.

Johnson says that graduating from the education specialist in educational administration – superintendent/district administrator program, which is available completely online, at the University of Wisconsin-Superior has provided many opportunities for him.

“This degree gave me a license to work in a school, but it also really opened up my pathway for life,” he said.

College Inspiration

As one of six children, Johnson was raised in a traditional family of modest means. His father, Leonard, was a barber, and his mother, Darlene, was a homemaker. Johnson, along with his mother’s side of the family, is an enrolled member of the LCO Tribe.

After watching his older brother, Gary, attend college, Johnson knew that was the route for him, too.

“I just kind of followed my brother’s pathway,” he said.

Johnson attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he earned an undergraduate degree in physical education, with an additional coaching licensure. He planned to be a P.E. teacher. But life had other plans.

“Efforts were put in place to recruit Native American teachers to teach Native American students,” he explained. “I was hired at the LCO Ojibwe School, where I taught for four years at the elementary and secondary levels. Then, I was asked to be principal.”

Impressively, Johnson began his first principalship at just 25 years old. But he knew continuing his education was part of the gig.

Superintendent Path

Next, Johnson chose UW-Superior, where he earned his master’s degree in educational administration, with certification to be an elementary and secondary principal. This, completely online degree was a valuable tool for his career progression, which included several hops between teaching, assistant principalship and principalship jobs within Wisconsin.

Johnson’s UWS experience was ultimately life changing.

“One of the most important things I’ve ever learned was from Dr. Robert Krey at UWS,” Johnson said. “He taught me not to ever sacrifice my professional ethics to fit in. My personal motto, which stemmed from that, is to always put students first.”

Three years into serving as assistant principal at Hayward Middle School, Johnson earned the Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year Award, given through the State of Wisconsin. This was a pivotal moment for him.

“Receiving that award opened doors for me,” he said. “People started telling me I’d be a good superintendent. I decided to try my hand in superintendency in 2003 and enrolled in the education specialist – superintendent degree program at UWS.”

This online program – designed for educators who already hold a master’s degree in education and a principal’s license – can be completed in as few as 18 months.

Johnson worked as superintendent for the Siren, Wisconsin, school district for 12 years, and the New Auburn, Wisconsin, school district for seven years. He proudly shared that he was one of just two Native American superintendents in the state of Wisconsin.

As noted, Johnson retired from the public school system in 2022. However, his education, skills and experience remained in high demand. He accepted a position as LCO Tribal Court Administrator in 2022 and remains in that role today.  

Additionally, Johnson serves on the Pardon and Forgiveness Committee for the LCO Tribe; a volunteer role helping Tribal members secure employment and housing.

Johnson and his wife, Michelle, live in Hayward, Wisconsin. They share a blended family, including five adult children.

A Meaningful Career

Johnson’s career has been very personally rewarding.

“I enjoyed being able to follow students as they grew up,” he said. “Watching kids develop, grow and succeed is amazing.

“I’d also like to recognize all the wonderful people who touched my life throughout my career, including my college professors, colleagues, staff members, students, school board members and parents. I’d absolutely recommend this career path – and an education at UWS – to others. It’s a very rewarding education, and an even more rewarding career.”