A second try, and a new career path, for St. Scholastica grad

Sam Schlater went back to college in his 30s, juggling parenthood, classes and a part-time job on his way to a bachelor’s degree

College of St. Scholastica grad looking forward to career in elementary education
After being a stay-at-home dad for over 12 years, Sam Schlater, 37, of Duluth, is graduating with his first college degree. Schlater is seen in the library at the College of St. Scholastica on Thursday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

DULUTH — In 2018, Samuel Schlater started to recognize the writing on the wall.

Then 33, he knew he wouldn’t be a stay-at-home dad forever to his three children, who were 8, 6 and 1 at the time. He enrolled at the College of St. Scholastica, where his wife, Amber Schlater, is a biology professor, to pursue a degree in elementary education.

“I thought it was important to get back in there,” he told the News Tribune. “I needed a new career path. And as challenging, as daunting as it seemed, going back to college seemed like the right move at the time.”

He’s set to be one of about 480 people set to graduate from the college Saturday. Both of Schlater’s parents are retired teachers, he said, and he felt the profession’s pull after his oldest child was born.

“That calling just grew stronger and stronger,” Schlater said.


He took an earlier stab at higher education in 2006 at the University of Cincinnati, but “life happened,” as Schlater put it, and he didn’t finish his degree. In 2008, Schlater met Amber and started a family with her in Fort Collins, Colorado, and moved with her to Ontario, Canada, and then to Duluth after she was offered a job at St. Scholastica in 2016.

Schalter worked part time as a custodian at St. Luke’s hospital, juggling it alongside parenting and studying. Amber would work during the day while Sam parented at home, and they’d swap responsibilities in the afternoon. Or they’d orchestrate child care between their classes, handing their youngest off as one parent finished a class and the other began another.

Somewhere in the middle of all that “synchronized shuffling,” Sam Schlater said, he’d study for his classes, often around midnight after his shift at the hospital, or for the hour or so before Amber returned from teaching. His final year at St. Scholastica, when his youngest child was old enough for kindergarten classes, was the first when he didn’t have to coordinate his responsibilities so precisely.

The arrangement was stressful, Sam Schlater said, and the prior four years felt like they went by in a blur. But college, he found, came to him more easily in his 30s than it did in his 20s.

“I don’t know if I had that drive and passion or even understanding of what it meant to get your college degree and where that would bring you later in life,” he said, “and now, I know exactly why and how.”

Beyond the accomplishment itself and the career it’ll help open for him, Schlater’s degree also helped him win a bet with his brother. Earning his bachelor’s put Schlater’s brother on the hook for $1,000, a sum he paid early by taking Schlater, a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals football team, to watch the team play — and win — the AFC championship game last January en route to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1988.

“It was,” Schlater said Thursday of the Bengals game, “the crowning achievement.”

College of St. Scholastica grad looking forward to career in elementary education
Sam Schlater, of Duluth, is graduating Saturday with a degree in elementary education.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
From the column: "The pandemic exacerbated burnout amongst child-care workers. Safety precautions and quarantines led to understaffing. ... Workers were already experiencing burnout, and the pandemic amplified it."

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
What to read next
Also on today’s episode, JamRock Cultural Restaurant moves to Duluth, and northern long-eared bat officially declared endangered.
As reported by St. Louis County District Court.
The state canvassing board approved the General Election results at its meeting Tuesday.
Bygones is researched and written by David Ouse, retired reference librarian from the Duluth Public Library. He can be contacted at