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A Model Entrepreneurial Educator

Author: Katie Truesdell Date: July 01, 2014

NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation rewarded Katherine Stenger for her commitment to teaching middle-schoolers about entrepreneurship.

Katherine Stenger, a middle school teacher at a Montessori school in Encinitas, California, was recently announced the winner of the NFIB Entrepreneurship Educator Award, a scholarship program rewarding teachers who promote entrepreneurship in the classroom.

This award is available to any educator of students in first through 12th grades who teaches entrepreneurship creatively and successfully. This year’s applicants were asked to create and submit a video answering the question, “What best practices have you used to teach entrepreneurship, and what has been the outcome?” Stenger’s video will be presented at an award luncheon on July 16 in Washington, D.C., where she will receive a $1,000 scholarship to further her entrepreneurial instruction.

Hands-On Learning Experiences

Stenger says her intention is for students to not just learn about entrepreneurship but to actually experience it, thereby stretching their imaginations, taking risks and developing communication, math, science and problem-solving skills.

Through hands-on engagement, she says, students “face challenges like collaboration, compromise and even failure. The result is graduates who are prepared for a future we can’t predict, but that we know will require innovative application of academic skills as well as resilience in the face of rapid change.”

Stenger began developing her entrepreneurship program two years ago. For the first activity, students choose an entrepreneur to study for a school-wide biography project. This culminates in a “Meeting of the Minds,” where students—in costume and character—deliver monologues and engage in a roundtable discussion on entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Classroom

Inspired by the model entrepreneurs they’ve studied, students then create a business from the ground up. This past year’s business concept was “Wisdom Soap,” handmade soap with laminated inspirational quotes embedded in each bar. From idea to production to profit, Stenger observed students learning firsthand about research and development, division of labor, leadership, recordkeeping, marketing and pricing.

“Rather than methodically introduce these concepts as lessons, however, I let the kids lead, and I support them with information, tools and resources as needed,” Stenger says. “This way, students are directing their own learning from a place of inquiry.”

At the end of the year, students donate much of their profits to local charities.

Stenger says her students have responded with great enthusiasm and a genuine awareness of the lessons they’ve learned. This is evident in her video, which was student-produced and centered on their experience.

“You learn entrepreneurship by trial and error, by failing and learning from our failures, and building off what’s gone wrong,” a student reflected in the video. “Because it’s never really a failure; it’s just something that won’t work.”

Learn more about NFIB's Young Entrepreneur Foundation.

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