For Susan Schnitzer (BA and Credential ’78), teaching has
enriched a life of service to children.
In the late 1970s, Schnitzer began her teaching career in Oregon.
Having just completed a combination undergraduate degree in
American Studies and teaching credential, Schnitzer headed to
where teachers were desperately needed: Portland, Oregon.
Ultimately, she taught second and third grade for six years in a
team teaching, open classroom environment where her preparation
at UC Davis helped her shine.
“At UC Davis, I learned to teach in a really multidisciplinary
way,” said Schnitzer. “I was well-prepared to teach in a
classroom with a lot of diversity, from first generation
Americans to very poor kids to kids from many different
She found that reading was a particular challenge for many of her
students, so she earned a master’s degree and became a reading
specialist. Eventually, she left the classroom as a
full-time teacher and focused on parenting her
But the passion for teaching was still very much alive in
Schnitzer. Over the last 30 years, she has volunteered in her
children’s classrooms, was a member of the board for her
children’s school, served as an aide and substitute teacher,
helped in the school’s kitchen, and even led Sunday school.
Beyond the time spent with her children, she volunteered at the
Ronald McDonald House in Portland, where she has been a
fundraiser and board member for 29 years. “That has really been
my passion. If children are not healthy, they can’t live and
enjoy life,” she said.
Most important, Schnitzer believes that being trained as a
teacher has made her a more effective parent. “I have always used
my teaching skills as a parent,” she said. “I knew how to build a
logical, positive structure in which my children could focus on
education and live a responsible, creative, and fun life.” Now
adults, Schnitzer’s children are “really productive and know how
to get the best out of themselves.”
“Teaching is about building relationships. It’s us, not you
versus them,” she said.
Schnitzer’s belief in the power of teaching and
commitment to giving back is most evident in her philanthropic
support of student scholarships in the UC Davis School of
Education. In 2003, Schnitzer established the first
endowed fund in the new School of Education to provide
scholarship support for teaching credential students. To date,
Schnitzer’s generosity has made it possible for 11 students to
realize their dream to teach.
“I am thrilled to know that so many of the recipients of the
scholarships are first generation college graduates,” said
Schnitzer. “I expect they share my passion for teaching and that
they will get into a classroom and touch people’s lives. It is
exciting to know they are getting a little bit of help from me.”
As Schnitzer looks forward, she has no intention of leaving
behind the teacher inside. “I will be using what I learned as a
student teacher at Davis all my life. I can’t wait to use it as a