Unexpected choices often bring about the greatest rewards. This is especially true for Salann Gilbert, a preschool teacher at Lehigh Elementary School in Lehigh Acres, Fla. Growing up in Solon Springs, Wis., Salann didn't expect to attend UW-Superior.
"UW-Superior was always in the back of my mind as I applied elsewhere," she said. "The closer the deadline came for choosing, the clearer it became. I enjoyed that UW-Superior was close to home, had a smaller campus and a well-known teaching program."
As an elementary education major with a minor in early childhood, Salann gained an understanding of the physical, social, emotional and cognitive aspects of development related to learning. It also helped prepare her for the real responsibilities that come with teaching.
"The coursework and classroom observation hours really gave me a feel for having my own classroom, with my own rules and with my own students," said Salann, who was also a four-year member of the Yellowjacket volleyball team. "There have been many times where I will refer back to my coursework, projects, or just notes that I have taken throughout my years at UW-Superior for ideas to integrate into my own room that I have now. The smaller campus gave me a variety of opportunities for hands-on experiences and many memorable class discussions that I feel helped shape my teaching philosophy."
After graduation, the life-long Wisconsin resident made the decision to escape the harsh wintertime weather.
"I wanted to be somewhere warm, and when someone suggested Florida to me, I just went with it," Salann said. "I knew someone in the Fort Myers area, so I started putting my application in everywhere in their district until I got an offer."
Salann now calls Fort Meyers, Fla., home and has a career she loves.
"The most rewarding part of teaching for me is when the students reach their 'A-HA!' moment," she said. "I love seeing their faces light up when it all finally clicks for them, and they get to home and tell their parents all about it."
Although miles away, the knowledge she gained at UW-Superior is something Salann relies upon frequently.
"I remember sitting in one of my teaching courses and a professor saying to the class, 'Just remember – if you don't want to be in your own class, why should your students?' I think of that every week when I'm writing up my lesson plans."
As someone who has learned a lot about the difference a location can make, she has advice for those looking at universities.
"I would tell them to choose a location they love, somewhere that has smaller class sizes to maximize their experiences and to choose somewhere that has extra sports, clubs and organizations that they are interested in," she says. "UW-Superior has a lot of opportunities for students to get out there and get to know each other, and I recommend taking them up on the opportunity! The amount of friends you'll meet on a smaller campus will stick with you for a lifetime."