By Valerie McFadden
Teacher, Seacrest Country Day School
One of the most important goals of teaching is to identify classroom practices that encourage and foster student learning and knowledge retention. While my journey into teaching began more than 25 years ago, in the last eight years of my teaching career I have so deeply enjoyed being able to work with the volunteers from Junior Achievement to enrich my students’ lives on a daily basis.
Having achieved award recognitions that include Massachusetts Teacher of the Year nominee and the Junior Achievement Teacher of the Year, I value that parents entrust me and my colleagues with the responsibility of helping their children progress socially, intellectually and emotionally.
In the midst of class curriculum planning, there is much creativity and a lot of teamwork that goes along with building educational foundations to help our children excel in life.
When my family moved to Southwest Florida eight years ago, I began teaching fifth grade at Seacrest. I was told I would have a Junior Achievement volunteer in my classroom teaching a program entitled “Our Nation.’’
Curious about the Junior Achievement programming, I investigated to learn more. I was impressed to discover this is an international organization that empowers young people to own their economic success. There are more than 12,000 students in grades K-12 participating in Junior Achievement in classrooms in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties.
My students were so excited when I first mention it was Junior Achievement time. At Seacrest, students begin Junior Achievement in the second grade. They excitedly told me of previous years in which they learned of economic institutions, the job market, finance, business models and entrepreneurship. They even knew terms like division of labor, economic development and job security!
Looking back on that first year and each year since, it’s clear to me why Junior Achievement has gained such great favor with so many schools: It’s the wholehearted commitment of each volunteer. I see my students beam in the classroom at the inspirational and motivational speeches that are communicated; that their dreams are achievable and tangible.
The volunteers come prepared with programs, like the “Our Nation’’ program, that complement my students’ level of learning and abilities. They offer real-life stories from their respective professions as business leaders in the community. Moreover, they treat each student as they are a unique individual with great potential in every moment.
My classes have been filled with bright minds eager to learn, and when a new Junior Achievement volunteer comes to join us for a season, we all learn from one another. I have gained incredible insight from the professionals who have so graciously and eloquently taken the time and energy to be present in my classroom.
What’s even better is that Junior Achievement’s programs do not end with their volunteers in the classroom. Last year Junior Achievement and The University of Phoenix collaborated and awarded 15 full scholarships to educators across the United States. I am truly blessed to have received this honor and am currently enrolled in a graduate program for adult education.
Encouraged each day to remain focused on a common goal of educational growth, I cannot speak highly enough about the value of Junior Achievement in our classrooms, as well as the dedication of those who share their time and talents to support JA.
I hope you will join me, other local educators and business professionals on Oct. 29 at the Waldorf Astoria Naples as Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida inducts John DeAngelis and David Diamond of DeAngelis Diamond Construction and Mayela and Orlando Rosales of Media Vista Group into the JA Business of Hall of Fame, Collier County. The prestigious annual award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who serve as role models for youth through their professional accomplishments and commitment to the community.
For more information, visit www.jaswfl.org or call 239-225-2590.