Learning Curve: Christian Follows His Heart for Business

Photo of a man sitting in front of a laptop with a wall of bookshelves behind him.

In his professional life, Christian Marcelo’s love of learning came full circle – he taught in the very same classroom where he was a high school student almost 13 years before. In fact, it was his Intro to Business class, and several mentors along the way, that inspired his love of learning and ultimately his decision to leave a promising corporate career to pursue his passion for teaching.

Christian’s earliest influence, his mother, Silvia Fernandez, provided the foundation for his character. Her sacrifices inspired him to seek a life of meaning and purpose.

As an immigrant from Mexico, my mother didn’t finish high school. But what she lacked in formal education she made up for in courage, hard work, and vision for a better life for herself and her young son.

Christian’s Early Love of Learning

Christian’s mother immigrated from Mexico in 1980 and Christian was born in the U.S. But as a single mother with a baby to care for, she decided to return to Mexico to be with family as she raised her infant. Mother and son returned to the U.S. when Christian was five years old, just as he was starting first grade in Nashua, New Hampshire.

I loved to learn. At home, we spoke Spanish but at school I was immersed in English, taking English Language Learner classes to support my language development which was important. But when you start with ELL classes, schools can make other assumptions about your capabilities academically.

Christian was assigned to “foundation” courses, which didn’t fully challenge him. He didn’t know how to advocate for himself and his mother had no experience navigating the complexities of the school system.

Realizing His Academic Potential

It wasn’t until high school that Christian’s teachers identified him as someone who should be in honors and business classes. Dottie O’Gara, then a teacher and director of the Career and Technical Education program at Nashua HS North, encouraged Christian to take Running Start classes in high school through the Community College System of New Hampshire. The courses allowed him to satisfy high school graduation requirements while simultaneously earning college credit.

At that time, I didn’t see myself going to college. It just wasn’t a goal. I needed to work to support myself and help my mom. But Ms. O’Gara encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunities there, easily in my reach, that could prepare me for what’s next. College was suddenly on my radar. I just needed someone to help me see it as possible.

Like many high school students in search of part-time income, Christian applied for his first job at 16 years old as a retail cashier at Marshalls. He had a focused goal of getting a car and paying for his cellphone.

What he didn’t expect was to fall in love with the energy, the customer interaction, and team dynamic of a retail environment. His supervisors recognized that he had energy and diligence that were rare. By Christian’s sophomore year in high school, he was promoted to customer service coordinator with supervisory responsibility. At that time, he realized the connection between what he was learning in school and the application of that knowledge in the workplace. With the encouragement of his mother and support from his teachers, he enrolled in classes at the University of New Hampshire to pursue his associate degree.

Advancing His Career with a College Degree

Remarkably, he kept growing in his career while attending college full time. After achieving his associate degree, he was promoted to operations manager. The work was getting more sophisticated, and he understood that to advance he would need to complete his bachelor’s degree. The College of Professional Studies offered the perfect educational platform for him, where working adults with full-time jobs, families, and other commitments return to finish their degree.

It was motivating to see people return to school after so many years. We were united by our circumstances of balancing school and work and life. Our mantra was, “We can do this, and we can inspire one another along the way.”

Professors in his undergraduate program were engaging. They would encourage discussion and application of theory to work scenarios. Likewise, he and his classmates would enrich discussions with details about their industries and workplaces, which brought the curriculum to life.

After two years with the college, Christian earned his B.S. in Business Management with a minor in Human Resources. Earning his bachelor’s helped him earn another promotion at Marshalls after graduation. He also earned the respect of his undergraduate faculty who encouraged him to continue for his master’s degree.

I would never have expected to finish a bachelor’s when I was in high school. But when my faculty encouraged me to keep going for my master’s, I was open to it because everything was possible at that point. I was thriving on the job. My courses were fascinating, and I had people who genuinely cared about my future.

Building on his professional experience, from being a part-time cashier at 16 years old to manager of an $8 million store just over a decade later, Christian’s master’s capstone project focused on employers’ investments in training and development programs. TJX Companies, parent company of Marshalls and leading off-price apparel and home fashion retailer in the U.S. and worldwide, offers diverse training programs and opportunities for advancement.

Combining Passions for a New Career Path

Dr. Kathy DesRoches, Christian’s capstone faculty member, asked him a life-changing question: “If you love business, and you are interested in teaching, why not combine the two?”

Soon after, Christian took a chance and applied for an adjunct teaching position at a local community college. Just a few classes in, he found himself considering a career change.

Somehow the combination of my interest in education, industry experience, and education made teaching a real possibility. It still didn’t make it easy to walk away from a company and managers that gave me so much opportunity.

Grateful for all he learned but nervous about such a big change, he reached out to his steadfast mentors, including Dottie, who encouraged him to follow his heart.

Dottie advised me again, ‘Follow what’s true to you. You’re young and you’ve already given so much to your first career. You owe it to yourself to try.’ It was everything to have that boost of confidence.

Within days of that decision to pursue a career in business education full time, Christian learned that his former high school had an opening for a business teacher. He applied and was offered the position.

The classroom I was in at Nashua HS North as a teacher helped launch my own interest in business as a student. I still can’t believe it. My goal was to bring the same positive energy to my students that my mentors offered me.

Christian’s teaching career has bloomed quickly since his first position at his former high school. While teaching at Nashua HS North, he also took on adjunct positions at Keene State College and Rivier University. Today, Christian is a full-time professor of Business Management at Manchester Community College.

While Christian describes that there may never be a “good” time to go back to school, he recognizes that his education has been worth the sacrifice and investment in his future. In fact, he just recently applied and was admitted to a doctoral program in business, again with Dottie’s encouragement.

I’m in love with the discipline and I’m trying to show my students that if they are passionate about something they should go for it.


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