Trips, guests and projects highlight TCA business classes

Nicole Barrett of The Career Academy was one of 9 teachers from 5 high schools and programs in Lincoln Public Schools honored for their efforts in teaching business classes to students. For more on that award, read this story.

Here are her responses to questions about what concepts students learn, how they learn and how the curriculum is changing for the better for students.

Why do you feel business is a good high school topics for students?

Business applies to everything a student will do in their life regardless of their career choice. First and foremost, business skills help them manage their own finances; enhance their computer skills by learning Microsoft Office; maintain professionalism during a job search and throughout their careers; and understand basic economic principles that effect society (i.e. taxes, banking, etc.). Every industry has business related jobs and the skillset business students learn prepares them to work wherever their career path takes them.

What types of projects do the students complete, and what do you see from them that assures they are growing their understanding? 

In the TCA Business Administration pathway, my students engage in a variety of projects that help them learn the content in a hands-on, engaged environment. Some of the big ones are: 

1.      The juniors, who were studying Principles of Marketing and Intro to Business, participated in the JA Company Program. You can follow the link to learn more about the program, but in a nutshell they formed their own company and ran it from start to finish. This required them to raise capital, decide on a product, run the sales and business, produce advertisements, and liquidate the business in one semester. They ended with about a 300% ROI. This project was embedded within the Intro to Business and Principles of Marketing courses. Their adaptation to company challenges and overall successful business implementation assures me that they are growing their understanding of business and applying the concepts learned in the curriculum.

2.      In Business Law (Seniors), the students competed against each other in a Mock Trial that was held in the Courtroom at UNL Law College. The students used this activity to help them understand the basics of a trial process and about torts. It was a great experience that the students loved, but it also provided tremendous educational value:

a.       Engaged students by giving they a case problem to solve

b.      Fostered team work by dividing the class into Plaintiff and Defendant teams

c.       Utilized critical thinking skills in a multi-week hands on environment

d.      Served as a class capstone by culminating concepts from throughout the term

3.      In Principles of Banking (Seniors), we took a field trip to Kansas City to tour the Federal Reserve Bank followed by an economic outlook presentation by Federal Reserve research associate Amy Okso. The tour followed a lunch at the Federal Reserve with Guest Speaker Kevin Shields from the FDIC. We started our day with a tour of Hallmark, with a presentation by a Financial Risk Manager, and ended it with a tour of SDC Publications, an entrepreneurial small textbook business that prepared a robust hands-on learning presentation incorporating general business concepts as well as their Banking and Business Law courses. Students are incorporated components of the trip into their final research papers and presentations for the course. 

4.      In Principles of Management, the students paired up with the Engineering Pathway for a semester long project. The engineers were building robots (in teams) for their final capstone and my students were assigned as the managers for the robot companies. They had to meet with the engineers weekly, monitor the budget, approve change orders and purchase requests, deal with HR issues, and eventually help the engineers with pricing and promotion for the robots. During the last week of the term, the teams worked together to make Shark Tank like pitches to instructors and administration. The instructors and administers, instead of investing capital in the company, had the opportunity to issue a purchase order for the robots for the companies they represented. For example, one company designed a robot to deliver drinks in a movie theater and the “sharks” fictitiously represented Marcus theaters, the Joyo, the Mary Reipma Ross theater, and a company that installs home theaters. To assist the BSAD students early on, I brought in a guest speaker specifically to address management of professionals in industries where you are not a subject matter expert. A couple comments from students:

“All in all, I really enjoyed this project and I think it would be great for future aspiring managers to get out and get semi-real world experience. Kudos to the teachers for thinking outside the box and making it all possible. It is not very often when an opportunity like the career academy comes along, let alone the opportunity to intermix pathways.” - Alec

“There was a huge real life learning experience that came with this project. The different personalities. The things we heard that were different from group to group and much more.” – Dawn

5.      In Career Transitions and Management Strategies, they role played for four weeks as managers for Wegmans food stores and went through a hiring process for a new cashier. The students had to write the job description, develop a help wanted ad, screen applications to select interviewees, conduct mock interviews, and eventually offer a job to one candidate while writing rejection letters to the others. The students learned so much and loved the experience. It built nicely on their own mock interviews done earlier in the term. 

What trends have you seen in recent years in the curriculum for business?

A couple trends that I have noticed are focusing on different generations in the workforce with the additions and nuances of millennials and generation Z. The business world is changing with these generations and it effects management styles, office culture, business etiquette, communication, entrepreneurial spirit, etc. The curriculum and teaching style continues to adjust to these changes. 

What hopes do you still have for your students as you continue to add and refine your own lesson plans?

My hopes are that my students continue to find their passions, feel engaged and challenged through the hands-on activities at TCA, and develop strong college and career readiness skills. I continue to refine my lesson plans as I get feedback from students on what works and what can be improved.  

Published: June 5, 2017, Updated: June 5, 2017