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Mary Wegner, B.S., Ed.D., M.Ed.

Mary Wegner, B.S., Ed.D., M.Ed. (she/her)

Superintendent & Ed Leadership Program Coordinator

School of Education

Education

  • Ed.D. Pepperdine University
  • M.Ed. University of Alaska Southeast
  • B.S. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Biography

Being a teacher was the one thing I wanted to avoid, so my pathway to becoming a teacher and then staying in education is very circuitous. I come from a long line of teachers from both sides of my parents. For example, my paternal grandmother was a PE teacher in rural Iowa who also became the school principal. However, she, as well as my mother and aunts who were teachers all left the profession when they got married. I wanted to have a career and make a difference at all stages of my life so I refused to consider becoming a teacher. Lacking a female role model who stayed an educator throughout her career had an impact on me even though both of my aunts rejoined the profession after my nieces and nephews were in school. It wasn’t until my first semester freshman year that I took a class focused on students with exceptional needs where I realized that I had a passion for making sure that each person received a relevant and meaningful education and was treated with dignity and respect. I changed my major that first semester and graduated with honors four years later with a Comprehensive Special Education and Elementary Education Bachelors.

I left the teaching profession after my first year as a special education teacher in a suburb of a large metropolitan area outside of Alaska because students with significant cognitive and physical challenges were not allowed to be part of their neighborhood school, which was contrary to my passion and vision for education. Instead of teaching, I started to work in group homes for adults with significant cognitive challenges, and at age 24 was the founding administrator for the first off-reservation group home focused on adults of Native American heritage; the group home was part of the Seattle Indian Center. As a hobby, I started taking flying lessons at Boeing Field and decided that I wanted to become a pilot. At the time, women were not allowed to fly in the military and I knew I needed experience to be a good pilot, given that people’s lives would be in my hands. I moved to Alaska in 1989 where I planned to live for a year to learn how to become a Bush pilot. I landed in Juneau because it was the largest city on the Alaska Marine Highway route.
 
Once in Alaska, I started substitute teaching, which turned into a teaching job, which led me to a Master’s in Educational Technology. Technology was a powerful equalizer for my students with special needs, and I wanted to learn more about how to impact learning through the use of technology, so I also got a Doctorate in the field. 

Along the way, I picked up graduate certificates in School Administration and the Superintendency. My willingness to move around Alaska, as well as accept opportunities to increase my impact within education led me to become a superintendent in SE Alaska. As a superintendent, I was recognized by President Obama for my leadership in educational technology at a district level, and I was able to lead a district working on realizing equity.

As a superintendent, on the first day of school, I went around to every classroom in the district and welcomed the students back to school. For most of the 100+ classes I visited, it was just a quick stop and wave and the door. My first year as superintendent, I was at the door of a 1st-grade classroom when the teacher welcomed me into the room and introduced me as the new superintendent for the school district. Then she asked me if I wanted to say anything to the students, so I asked them if they knew what a superintendent does. I got some very good 1st-grade responses, such as one student who thought it meant that I knew how to color and stay within the lines, and another student who thought it meant that I knew how to build things. My favorite answer was from Kyla who said that a superintendent must be a superhero! Not only did that make my day, but it also got me thinking about how this is true for all of us in education. Everyone who works in schools are superheroes to our students, and we perform unsung, superhero, heroic tasks for our students in support of learning every day. Enjoy your superhero status!    

Alaska is a big small community and UAS is a perfect example of this reality. It doesn’t matter what town you live in in Alaska, we are all connected and know people in common. I love living in Juneau, and not just because it is where my grandchildren live, but also because it is the hub of SE Alaska, as well as being our state’s capital city. Since moving to the state over 30 years ago, I have lived in Juneau, Gustavus, Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, Sitka, and Juneau; I guess I just cannot get enough of Juneau! UAS has educational programs that reach across our great state and each program offers relevant personalized learning. I am proud to be UAS faculty helping to cultivate the next generation of educational leaders for our great state.

Mary Wegner, B.S., Ed.D., M.Ed.

Superintendent & Ed Leadership Program Coordinator

School of Education

Mary Wegner, B.S., Ed.D., M.Ed.