At the College of Menominee Nation, we are proud and honored to have people from numerous walks of life brighten our halls. With Faces of CMN, the Institutional Advancement department speaks with staff, faculty, alumni, and students to learn more about them, their lives, and how they help shape the College's legacy.
Could you please give us your basic information: name, title, and a brief descriptor of what you do at CMN?
My name is Kelli Chelberg. I am a faculty member or an assistant professor in the Teacher Education department.
How long have you been with the College?
I was an adjunct for nine or ten years prior to starting in 2012. I think that means I’m going on my 11th year?
That sounds right to me.
I was a full time stay at home mom, taught education courses in the evening, had a few - six! - kids along the way, and then came back eleven years ago, when my youngest was in 4-K. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Are you an alumnus of CMN, and if not, how did you find your way here?
So I’m originally from upstate New York, and found my way here via St. Louis, then Montana, and then here. My husband works up at the tribal clinic as an eye doctor, and he’s from the Red Cliff tribe here in Wisconsin. He found work with the Menominee, and led us here. I met someone here through a support group, and she was looking for someone with a master's in Education, and that’s how I ended up at the College. Taught a course or two here or there, and CMN just aligned with my beliefs.
What about the College appeals to you?
I think it is that “family” feel. Bottom line, it comes down to relationships: between our students, between other faculty and staff. It’s not a huge institution where you’re not working in your own towers. The students also keep me here, seeing their successes and seeing them do well. Students who have been at this for years and years, ones that I’ve written grants for so they can just go full-time and graduate. To see them out teaching, and working with young children is amazing.
Someone asked me what I do the other day, and I said, “I teach teachers. Can you imagine? Those teachers are gonna be pretty fun.” It goes beyond the family feeling, seeing those students grow in their own confidence.
Can you share a brief anecdote about a time that made you feel like part of the CMN family?
Any time I emerge from the [Shirley Daly] basement! <Laughs> I can’t think of a specific time, really, but for me, part of it is the relationships that are established in the halls. When you’re out and about, and…honestly, now I’m thinking back to when we hosted our Education Department’s Round Dance. Being there, surrounded by multiple partners - 4H, people from the community, especially our students - made me go, “Okay, this is my family.” Making those connections with former students, current students, staff and more. Not that that was a defining moment, but…
I think that makes a lot of sense. It’s one of those things where - before you realize it, or without realizing it, maybe - it clicks into place. You go, “Oh! Right. This is what all of this is for. We’re all, in our own ways, working together to make things like this [Round Dance] happen.”
Right! That was in support of a grant we had, but how the community came together to host such an event…definitely a highlight, for sure.
Where do you think CMN goes from here? The 30th Anniversary is ongoing, but what do you think the aspirational “next step” is for the College, or for your programs in particular?
I think we’ve accomplished a lot! Our department in particular has done a lot of work in terms of building relationships with partner schools and local teachers. Ideally, we continue strengthening those experiences and bonds. MISD, Bowler, tribal schools…I’m specifically speaking to our program, but I’d love to see stronger connections with high schools in the area.
I’d also like to offer dual licensure opportunities for students to add Special Education as a license option, going hand-in-hand with working with students. I’d love to see a Master’s program as well.
Is there anything you can share as a message of hope and goodwill to the community and students at large?
You can do anything for a short period of time. That’s my motto with a lot of my students: you can do this. What supports do you need to be put in place to set and accomplish a goal? Whether that’s your Associate or something else, I think it’s really important that the community knows we’re here to support students.
I’ve got six kids, many of them are in high school. My words to them are, whether it’s trades or anything else, just taking a few classes, your educational choices really do impact the trajectory of your future choices. It changes your perspective.
Do I sound old? <Laugh>
<Laugh> I think you’ve got a few years left.
Thank you so much for your time.