A Model Entrepreneurial Educator

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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