Posted 2:55 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023
Pao Lor brings experience, fresh perspective as SOE associate dean
Pao Lor has seen it all — inside the classroom, and outside.
A Hmong refugee in the late 1970s, Lor fled his native Laos for the United States when he was 7 years old.
His new life in Green Bay was fraught with isolation and cultural barriers, but at school, a supportive network of mentors and educators helped show him the way.
“I had so many outstanding teachers who guided me, empowered me, took my hand and showed me opportunities I could explore,” Lor says. “Having spent my career in the education field, the position here at UWL gives me the opportunity to share my experience and my knowledge about the profession, and find ways to see how my experience can help elevate the programs here, training future educators to have the skills and confidence to do well.”
Lor, who began his role in July, was previously a professor of education at UW-Green Bay, where he chaired the Professional Program in Education.
Lor also spent time as a teacher and administrator in the Green Bay and Neenah school districts, and as an academic advisor at UW-Oshkosh.
Although he is still settling in at UWL, Lor says he is impressed by the people and programs that allow the SOE to produce top-quality teachers.
“The infrastructure here is incredible,” he says. “In this profession, we need to know what’s going on in the school districts, what their needs are and what teachers need to know to teach effectively. UWL has the infrastructure to continually make those improvements, and ç
Lor says he’s excited to work with staff and faculty to continue shaping SOE programming in a way that supports both students and school districts.
He also sees opportunities to engage prospective teachers from diverse backgrounds — which is crucial to developing a teacher workforce that is supportive and representative of all students.
“It’s challenging for some because it’s not a profession they’re necessarily familiar with,” says Lor, noting that many students of color may have never had a teacher in their family, or a teacher who looked like them. “Teaching is a unique profession that requires certain skills and qualities, and that’s something we’re trying to share with underrepresented populations. It can be a slow process, but it’s important to have that representation.”
Lor brings an insightful perspective to his role, in large part due to his turbulent childhood and cultural identity.
“Having experienced the various stages of life, where first your focus is just on survival, and then you’re given the opportunity to have an education, you appreciate the chance to establish and create a life,” says Lor, who recounts his story in an autobiography, “Modern Jungles.” “The experiences I’ve had have given me empathy for other people and what it means to live in a community. And I’ve learned that education is the one opportunity we really have to change our lives as well as the world.”
Having spent considerable time working in both K-12 and higher education, he is also well equipped to understand and respond to the needs of both student groups.
“In my experience, each has its own challenges,” Lor says. “But when it comes to human relationships and connecting with your students, it never changes. It’s about finding out who they are and where they want to go, and then helping them get there.”