Breaking Through the Ceiling: Chris Berndt Gained the Confidence and the Support to Succeed in College


Chris Berndt standing outside in front of a pine tree

Chris Berndt, the oldest son of the Berndt family, has a new perspective on higher education after attending Bay College (Bay).  After graduating from Norway High School, Berndt attended Michigan Technological University (MTU) with a football scholarship and a major in Biology.  After a year at MTU, Berndt transferred to Bay, which provided him with the right pace and allowed him to ease into secondary education.

"Bay was an opportunity to attend college and not have to uproot the rest of my life.  It allowed me to continue my education without having to change my whole life.  That time really prepared me for life after college," said Berndt.

When Chris first came to Bay he felt like he was at a low point, he didn't feel like he was going in the right direction or that college was for him. "College was a low priority for me. I would go to class and it got to the point where I thought of myself as somebody who didn't have the ability to succeed in college.  I think this happens to a lot of people.”

As it turned out, Bay was exactly what Berndt needed to succeed in college.  It was close to home, provided a sense of community and was an easier to transition to college life.  “It's crazy because I did well in high school, but I assumed I had hit my ceiling there.  The teachers at Bay College, specifically Terri Deopker, made me realize that this stuff wasn't rocket science.  These were all things that you could get a grasp of and learn as long as you put in the time and effort.  I realized that I could do it", said Berndt.

According to The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation,"Community college students who transfer to selective institutions have equal to higher graduation rates as students who enrolled directly from high school or those who transferred from other four-year institutions.

While attending Bay Chris really enjoyed a writing class, Rhetoric and Composition, and decided that he wanted to go into English.  After using Bay as a stepping stone, he went on to obtain his Bachelor's in English from St. Norbert and his teaching certificate at Northern Michigan University where he was awarded the 2017-2018 Student Teacher of the Year. Berndt is now an English teacher at Norway-Vulcan Area Schools.  "At least three cups of coffee are necessary before school when you teach 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade," Berndt joked.

"I’ve found a purposeful career where it feels very unselfish. When I have a stressful day where I might not get everything accomplished that I wanted to, I know that as long as I'm at work and doing my best I'm doing something good."

Some of Berndt's favorite things about Dickinson County are being close to the people he loves and watching the snow melt into spring.  On the weekends you will find him playing hockey, chopping trees with his dad, and visiting friends and family.  Something Berndt looks forward to every year, like most students, is summer vacation.

Berndt's, advice for anyone thinking about going into teaching, "Make sure you're choosing education because you want to do it.  If you want to be successful you really have to love it.  In education you need to be committed to the students and do what's best for them. Either you do it completely or you shouldn't do it at all."