Sometimes life has a way of bringing us full circle, and that’s exactly what alumna Christina Schnetzer, ’97, says about returning to Chatfield as an instructor. A very active student who has become a dedicated part-time faculty member, Christina says Chatfield is her academic home, and she can’t imagine being anywhere else.
In 1994, Christina was a single mother in her thirties and recently divorced when she decided to visit Chatfield College in Brown County for its annual Quilt & Craft Show. She was new to the area and looking for new opportunities. After signing up for a free tee-shirt at the admissions booth, Christina received a call from one of Chatfield’s counselors a few days later. He asked if she were interested in going back to school. When she said she couldn’t afford it, he told her with the help of scholarships and grants, it was possible to attend Chatfield at a net cost she could manage. After that phone call, Christina realized her dream of becoming a teacher could become a reality and began the enrollment process immediately.
“I went to Chatfield with a nine-month-old baby on my hip, holding the hand of my eight-year-old,” Christina says. “The registrar and other staff members were so accommodating, passing my baby around and giving her older sister a coloring book, just so I could register for classes and sign all the paperwork to enroll.”
As a young person, Christina had many jobs, some of which she called terrible, but she did what she had to, in order to pay the bills. Before the arrival of her second daughter, she had a great job at UPS but after having issues with her pregnancy, Christina was limited physically and could not return to work. She decided it was time to “work smarter, not harder”.
“As a child, my parents taught me that my work ethic would determine who I would become and I would need to make my own way. This was important to me to follow. This way I didn’t feel like I owed my success to anyone other than myself,” Christina shared.
Wanting to teach her two small children the same thing her parents had taught her, she made her mind up that she was going to earn her degree. Entering Chatfield’s campus for the first time, through the beautiful tree-lined front drive, Christina remembers a peaceful feeling coming over her. Although there were some obstacles to overcome, like past grades and previous college attempts, Chatfield’s staff worked hard to help her.
Christina explained, “I remember feeling like the Holy Spirit led me through the process. The registrar told me somehow my grades transferred, which at the time seemed impossible.”
As Christina began her journey at Chatfield, she had a lot to juggle—two kids, a full-time job and going to class. Even with a lot going on at home, she was very involved on campus—singing in the choir, volunteering in the admissions office and at the quilt show, writing and directing her own play, and even putting on a talent show. For a few semesters, Christina was enrolled in an independent study and she remembers instructors allowing her to bring her youngest on campus when she had no other option for childcare. In particular, Christina shares her gratitude to former instructor Sue Hamann as a very influential person in her life, who told Christina “yes, you have to do the work but sometimes you have to roll with the punches.” Christina said everyone at Chatfield would go above and beyond to make sure the students had what they needed to succeed.
“It’s important to realize that not every student has a support system at home, and sometimes Chatfield is their support system. The communal atmosphere here means so much, because you don’t find that everywhere. People care and the students matter,” said Christina.
In the spring of 1997, Christina graduated from Chatfield with an associate degree. After waiting a few years, she decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Despite continued work and family responsibilities and a scarcity of available time, her hard work paid off in 2004, when she graduated from Antioch University with a bachelor’s degree in humanities.
Before going back to school to earn her Master of Science at Kaplan, Christina was pursuing another of her passions—singing. Performing at open mics and an assortment of professional gigs, she returned to Chatfield to sing at its Band fest event. It was then Christina decided to start taking steps to become an instructor. Since the beginning of 2015, Christina has been teaching English and communications classes at Chatfield.
She believes teaching is her calling, rather than just another job. With a laugh, Christina says she believes what they say is true—if you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. As a part-time instructor, Christina said there are a million others things she could do with more benefits and a tangible payoff, but her reward is seeing students reach their goals and achieve the dreams they set out to accomplish. She hopes to continue to find new ways to grow and serve the Chatfield community.
As both an instructor and as a mom, Christina teaches the value of self-motivation. She says she may be tough on her students, but she is just as tough on herself.
“We can show these students that they can achieve whatever they want, as long as they work hard enough for it,” she said. “We’re not straight-A students all the time, and that’s okay. What matters is that we are still working at it.”
Christina offers this advice to anyone considering going back to school, “When I decided to go back to school all those years ago, I did it for two reasons. First, to show my kids the importance of drive and working hard for what you want. Secondly, I wanted to show the ones who said I couldn’t do it, and even myself, that I could, I would, and I did. You can too.”