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Spotlight: Laura Prellwitz

May 21, 2010

Laura  Prellwitz (Gotchy) came to Silver Lake College because she wanted to become a veterinarian.  Yes, you read that right.  Silver Lake College had a veterinarian assistant program when Laura matriculated in 1979.  After graduating from Lincoln High School, being a veterinarian was all that Laura could think of.

Although she could get her start in veterinary science at Silver Lake, she would have to go out of state to finish the program.  Laura had friends who did the very same thing transferring to a school in Minnesota.  However, those friends did not have a very good experience with the program there, as they found out that the program euthanized animals for testing.  Laura talked to the program director and said that “destroying life because no one wanted it was wrong”.  The director replied to her, “If that’s how you feel, you have no place here.”  Laura recalls, “With that, my whole life plan was scrapped.”

With little idea of what to do next, Laura returned to Silver Lake College for the second semester of her freshman year.  Then, she recalls, “I went cruising around the college, on the lower level, and saw classes with two-way mirrors.”  Jan Algozine told her that it was for class room observing, and explained to her the concept of special education for learning disabilities.  Laura though to herself, “Well, I may as well take special education until I change my mind.”  She ended up sticking with it until her graduation in 1983.

Laura says, “I really made some lifelong friends at Silver Lake.  I sometimes run into Jan and Jacqui Satori in the grocery store, and they still greet me by name!  Sisters have come to my graduation parties and my wedding, and have really shared some milestones in my life.  I don’t know of any other university that can boast that kind of personal connection.”

After graduation, Laura got her first job in Seymour teaching 7th through 9th grade learning disabilities.  “It was tough.  Real tough.  Baptism by fire.  But the first year of teaching always is.”

Five years later, in 1988, Laura’s dad passed away.  She was devastated, but was amazed at the funeral to see several of the sisters from Silver Lake.  “We aren’t even Catholic, but they still remembered me and came.  That was special.”

After her father’s death, Laura and her husband moved to Manitowoc to take care of her mom, and got a job in Kewaunee teaching 9th-12th grade learning disabilities.  If it wasn’t for the principal whom Laura felt was “demeaning to woman” she would have stayed there longer.

However, she was offered a job in Sheboygan, and has now been there for 20 years.  She started out travelling between a high school and a middle school for learning disabilities.  It was also about that time that she returned to Silver Lake College to work toward her Master’s in Teacher Leadership.

“I got burnt out at one point because of the lack of administrative support,” says Laura.  That’s when a job opened in the district for language arts at another school.  “Jacqui Satori always told me that I sparkled—and that I should be in regular education,” Laura remembers.  So Laura applied for and accepted the position, and she says, “It is one of the best choices I’ve ever made.”

What’s Laura’s favorite part of being a teacher?  “The amazing pay, and the parent support,” she joked, “but honestly, I enjoy being with the kids and facilitating their learning.  I love that ‘ah ha’ moment when you can look at a kid’s face and just know they get it.”

In her spare time, Laura likes to travel and sail.  She was also the president of the Fox Valley Region Porsche Club, where she did phenomenal work in increasing the social and charitable activities of the club.

Laura’s future dreams are to retire when she turns fifty-five and to become an alpaca farmer.  “I know that sounds kind of stupid,” she grins, “But they’re really cool animals.”  Although Laura never actualized her dream of becoming a veterinarian, she still has a love for them, and is seriously considering trying something different for the next stage in her life.

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