48-year-old EMU College of Education student pursues lifelong dream of teaching

By Linda Haas | Published July 14, 2015

C. J. Snow had "trepidations" about attending a university in his mid-40's.

"My biggest concern was whether other students would accept me," says the Ypsilanti resident, who dreamed of becoming a teacher but needed to return to school for the credentials. His concern was laid to rest when he attended an Explore Eastern Open House in 2014 and spoke with Teacher Education Department Head Martha Kinney-Sedgwick.

"I was struck by the fact that she took the time to talk with me personally. She answered all my questions in a way that made me feel welcome. I knew then that EMU was where I belonged," says the senior, who turned down acceptance offers from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

One big family

His first impression of a welcoming atmosphere at the Green and White soon proved true. "Eastern’s College of Education is like one big family," says the 4.0 GPA student, who is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, language arts, Fall 2016.

"Networking is huge at EMU. It has enabled me to surround myself with an amazing group of future educators and it has provided a solid foundation of support," adds Snow, who serves as treasurer of the EMU chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, an international education honor society. He also belongs to the EMU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, an interdisciplinary honor society.

Unleashing dreams

Not only has the COE tapped Snow’s potential, it has unleashed his long-held dream of becoming a teacher. His first career choice, working as a music buyer for Borders, ended in 2011 when the company declared bankruptcy. "Employees knew the end was coming at Borders. This was my chance to switch gears to something I’ve always wanted to do--teach," he says, adding he’s happiest when helping or training others.

Snow enrolled in Washtenaw Community College a few months before Borders closed, ultimately earning an associate’s degree in elementary education from WCC in 2013. "I transferred to Eastern because of its reputation for producing education graduates with practical knowledge of teaching and classroom management," he says, adding that he talked with several professionals who pointed him towards EMU.

The reassurance of inclusion

He also was reassured by Eastern’s reputation for inclusivity--a plus for non-traditional students. "Even though I’m older than some of my professors, I’ve never encountered any pushback. In fact, students and faculty have encouraged me to share my work experiences," he says, adding that working at Borders honed his ability to set priorities, manage projects and work collaboratively as well as independently.

Getting a little "life under his belt" also yielded another benefit--focus. "At 18, I wasn’t prepared for college. At 48, I am completely focused on teaching," he says.

His zeal has been matched by his professors—another EMU advantage, he says. "Their passion for their subject matter and for preparing students is inspiring," he says.

COE employability

Kinney-Sedgwick describes Snow as a "thoughtful" and "mature" student who is "outstanding" with children. "His cooperating teachers love him, and one public school teacher in Ann Arbor has requested that he return for student teaching," she says.

Not only does this confirm Snow’s career choice—it bodes well for his future employment. "I’m honored to have schools request me, and I’m reassured to think I can find work nearby," he says, adding he and his wife, Rosalynn, enjoy living in Ypsilanti.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of elementary school teachers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, with jobs bringing an annual wage of about $50,120.[1] Salary, however, was never the big draw for Snow.

"Eastern has given me a second chance to have the career of my dreams. I’m excited about the prospect of having a positive impact on children during their formative years," he says.

Learn more or donate

For more information on elementary education certification at EMU, visit the Programs webpage or contact the College of Education's Office of Academic Services at 734.487.1416 or [email protected].

To make a difference in the lives of future elementary education students, donate to the Elementary Education Program Fund, or contact Christa Reid, Director of Development for the College of Education at [email protected].

  1. Visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics site.