Nontraditional students who have been out in the world and come back to school make the best, most attentive students, he said.
"They're the hungriest. They realize they have to work on their education outside the classroom. They will go the extra mile."
One who fits that description is John Chadwick, of Belleville.
John Chadwick doesn't mind the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. third shift.
"It works out well for all of us," said the Belleville father who is third-shift supervisor for the fabrication shop at Roesch Inc. in Belleville.
"The thing about working third shift is I'm home in the morning when everyone's getting ready for school. I'm at dinner every night with everyone. I can get up and go to school functions. That's why I went to third.
"Second is 3:30 to midnight. I didn't see any of the kids at all."
His kids include daughter Maya, 8, stepson Tim Adams, 15; daughter Skylar Chadwick, 16, stepdaughter Katherine Adams, 16; and daughters, Raven, 21, and Damiana, 22.
John is taking classes at Southwestern Illinois College to earn a certificate in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration.
"I went back to school because I was curious to see if I could do it. The certification will improve our lifestyle. It makes me more valuable to the company I work for."
His dream job?
"I'm leaning more toward building maintenance at a college or hospital," he said.
John juggles family responsibilities, work and school on a path to earn his certification. He's down to his last two classes, but is considering an associate degree.
"With my core classes done, I think I can break it up into two semesters."
On a recent Thursday, he took his wife to breakfast, came home, slept most of the day, then had a 3-hour class before heading to work at 11.
His work ethic impresses his teachers.
"There are some people like him in the program," said Keith Otten, heating and cooling coordinator for Belleville and Granite City, "but he stands out with his personal situation. He's taken it to the next level. He gives us over 100 percent."
Fall semester, John's day classes interferred with his sleep time so he slept less.
"Showing up here, only getting two hours of sleep, to continue his education," said Keith, "it shows if you put your mind to it, you can succeed." Late on a Monday afternoon, John sat on his living room couch behind a thick textbook, writing test questions for recovery, charging and reclaiming procedures -- something that has to do with charging an air conditioning system.
"Right now, I'm taking a class that is a test prep class for certification," he said. "It's interesting. There's a lot more to it than I thought. It's a lot more technical."
The rest of the family, gathered around the coffee table, studied alongside him. One of their two cats watched from atop an easy chair.
Katherine, a Belleville East junior, worked on an anatomy presentation. Timothy, who turned 15 that day, studied world history and looked forward to paintballing on the weekend.
"Mom, I need help," said Maya, 8, a second-grader at Jefferson, figuring out fractions.
Rae, a stay-at-home mom, coached Maya on the finer points of adding, subtracting and carrying. She's proud of her husband's effort.
"With his work skills, it already makes him more valuable," she said. "We had talked about it for years, I am excited for him. He was hesitant, then he just decided one day to go forward with it."
"I wasn't getting any younger," said John, 41, who started taking classes in fall 2011. "I didn't want to be one of those people who kept talking and talking but never did anything about it. You can only talk so long. You just have to put up or shut up."
"He's doing really well," said Katherine, who wants to be a pharmacist. "He's on the dean's list."
John planned to take a nap before starting his workday at 11.
"I can sleep through pretty much anything," he said.
What did you do after high school? "At that point in time, I was growing up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky. I wound up moving to Tennessee. I did go to school for a job I held there. Mainly, it was one factory job after another. I've worked at Roesch a little over eight years.
"I started on second shift, but didn't like those hours. It didn't work well with family life. Occasionally, they would open up and have a third shift. I kept getting moved to that because they needed someone who had experience on the machines. I said if they ever decided to have a third shift, I'd be happy to run it. I got lucky. Work picked up. I got moved to third shift."
What made you decide to go back to school? "I've seen a lot of other people do it. I thought maybe it's time for me to get off my butt and do it."
Why SWIC? "I looked at other schools pricewise and convenience-wise. SWIC was my best option."
Is school harder or easier than you expected? "Some of it is easier, some harder than I thought it would be. That's a good thing. It's a challenge. I wouldn't like it if it wasn't a challenge."
Did you worry about how you'd adjust? "I was pretty nervous at first, being in my 40s going back to school. It had been a long time. At my age, I'm more settled. I found it to be fun. I enjoy school.
"Now, I am thinking of going on ahead and finishing my associate degree. We are still discussing that. School seems a little addicting. Once you get back in school and get used to it, it's kind of like you still want to be there."
Advice: "Go for it. I wish I hadn't procrastinated as long as I did. It's not as hard as you make it out in your head. I told a lot of my fellow workers that."