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Waubonsee Featured Student Balances Family, Dreams

Paul Christiansen is Waubonsee's Student Success: Featured Student

If you ask him, Paul Christiansen will say he has been preparing for his career in early childhood education for at least eight years now, and he has three teachers who mentor him every day.

Raised on a farm in Frankfort, Ill., Christiansen worked in the wholesale greenhouse industry as a grower for 11 years after attending Joliet Junior College. Married for 18 years to his wife, Renee, the Christiansens live in Elburn and are parents to three daughters Kylie, age 11, Evyn, age 8 and Kelyn, age 6.

In 2007, he became a stay-at-home dad, a move that inspired his journey toward a career in early childhood education. His three children are his greatest teachers, he said, explaining that his way of returning the favor will be infusing those lessons into his future classroom.

“School was definitely a struggle for me, but watching my children grow has taught me a lot about myself and how I learn,” he said. “Guiding children to confidently follow their own path to a lifetime of learning is exciting.”

For his dedication to his intended field and for his contributions in the classroom, Christiansen is honored as Waubonsee Community College’s Student Success: Featured Student.  

His instructor, Carla Diez, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, nominated him for the honor.

Diez has taught at Waubonsee for 17 years, but estimates she has only had about 15 male students in her classrooms. But she said having a male in a female-dominated field is not the only thing that makes Paul special. She was also impressed by his drive to learn and ability to spark dialogue in the classroom.

“Paul is a student who stands out in many ways,” she said. “He thinks, approaches and takes in information in unique ways, challenges me as an instructor and is an inspiration to both myself and the other students in the course.”

After he completes his studies at Waubonsee, Christiansen plans to pursue further education at a Waldorf School teacher training institution.

“The Waldorf philosophy of imagination, nature, curiosity, and self-growth is very much like my own philosophy,” he said.

Christiansen said that at Waubonsee, Diez has been an inspiration.

“Being part of an open-minded, comfortable classroom environment, that allows students to follow their own thoughts, while hearing perspectives of others, was exciting,” he said of her class.

Christiansen said his advice to other students is to approach learning like science.  

“Learning is a lot like science in many ways,” he said. “Having an open mind to see many possibilities, self-reflecting on your own ideas, and understanding that making mistakes is part of the learning process is important.”