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Bridgette Wilkins, HS Business Teacher at Pearland High School Interview

Welcome to the 17th episode of The High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters. This episode of the podcast features an interview with Bridgette Wilkins, Business Teacher at Pearland High School in Pearland, Texas.

The High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters interviews teachers about how they got started teaching, tips and tricks for teaching business, marketing, and personal finance to high school students, and how teachers use Virtual Business simulations in their classrooms.

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Podcast Transcription

Jeff Rutherford (Marketing Director at Knowledge Matters):

Welcome back to the high school business and personal finance teachers podcast brought to you by knowledge matters. This is the podcast where we talk to high school business, personal finance and marketing teachers about their teaching careers and tips and tricks they have for teaching business and personal finance to high school students.

A Career in Business, Adjunct Teaching at a Local College, and Then Teaching High School Business

Today, we’re speaking with Bridgette Wilkins, a business teacher at Pearland High School in Pearland, Texas, Bridgette, welcome to the podcast.

Bridgette Wilkins: Hi, thanks for having me.

Jeff: Sure. Can you tell us about your path to becoming a business teacher?

Bridgette: I have over 20 years of business experience from nonprofits to financial services – pretty much the gamut.

I had started to do adjunct teaching at a local university. And I was wondering how the information was being processed with college students, because there seem to be an interesting thing happening with critical thinking skills. And I couldn’t quite get it, what was going on there.

A friend of mine suggested teaching high school and I thought, okay, that sounds like something great to do. I’ll still be in education, and now I’m at K-12 as well as a university setting. And so I went ahead started teaching high school. So that’s how I ended up teaching high school and teaching business classes.

Jeff: What classes do you currently teach?

Bridgette Wilkins: Currently, I teach career preparation, which is also known as co-op and I teach business information management.

Canvas LMS Was Key to Pivoting To Remote During the Pandemic

Jeff: Did your teaching and job change in the spring with the pandemic?

Bridgette: We pivoted really, really quick.

The benefit that I had is that I’d already started using and implementing my classroom learning management system. I didn’t have a huge learning curve to learn the LMS to make it work for the students.

My students already knew how to upload assignments, go and find the assignments and what modules look like in our LMS system.

That piece became less stressful for me because I’d already prepared my students for using the LMS system.

Jeff: What LMS do you use at your school?

Bridgette: We use Canvas.

Jeff: How is your school year going so far? Are you doing remote or hybrid or a combination?

Bridgette: We’re doing a combination.

Electives have an option to be asynchronous with remote learners or to be synchronous with the remote learners during the time that the class is meeting.

I chose to keep my remote students asynchronous and then my face-to-face students are taught in class.

Our first two weeks we started, it was a hybrid situation. We had those who signed up for face-to-face come one day a week based on their alpha and then four days remote for the first two weeks. Then the second two weeks, they came two days a week based on alpha and the other three days were remote.

So today is our first day of all of our face-to-face students coming to school all at one time.

Jeff: Do you use the textbooks with your classes or how do you decide on the curriculum?

Bridgette: We use the curriculum that was provided by the school. Because there was a pivot, and I don’t have textbooks for my courses, we searched for online resources.

We use elements from different websites or different products. Going into online teaching is just a totally different animal. Now you’re looking for something that you can use remotely and that works with your LMS system. And you’re hoping you can have a seamless process. Ideally online what you want is for it to be seamless for the user whether they’re a high school student, a college student or an adult learner. You want it to be as seamless as possible.

A lot of vendors started to make this shift to make it seamless. And sometimes it didn’t work. We’ve got some things that we’re using that actually takes them somewhere else. But then as a teacher, you go and you get the grades from there and pull it back in.

Jeff: When you’re working on your curriculum and your lesson plans, how aware are you of the state standards and how you match up against those? Is that something you think about?

Bridgette: Absolutely we think about it. We often try to find one assignment that can cover three or four TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards) at one time. I always make sure that I’m on target with meeting the standards that I’m required to teach.

First-year Business Teachers Should Get Support, and Get to Know, Other Business Teachers Who Can Offer Resources and Support. And Don’t Take Work Home.

Jeff: If you were talking to a first-year business teacher, what’s one piece of advice that you would give them about teaching or managing the classroom or anything about the profession?

Bridgette: I would say. One, get to know your fellow teachers who teach the same courses.

Is it always someone at your school? No, for example, I’m the only career prep teacher at my high school. However, I’m not the only career prep teacher in the district. I was just fortunate when the world was open that in my district we met – subject-based across the district.

Those teachers who were teaching career prep or all got together, regardless of which school we were at. That helps to have someone to ask for suggestions, for materials that are not the ones that are provided by the the high school.

Get to know the teacher who works next door to you, just in case you have to go for a bathroom run and you need someone to cover your class really quickly.

Don’t take work home. You cannot finish it all in one day. My first year I literally would come into school an hour before school started and more than likely I would change the lesson that I took a week to prepare. I would change it because I felt something different. Don’t do that. You’re going to drive yourself crazy.

Give yourself some grace, but also give students grace. Everything that students do in your class is not contingent upon what they’re actually going through right now.

That’s what I would tell teachers to do, but definitely some grace and don’t take anything home.

Jeff: That’s good advice. What keeps you excited about teaching?

Bridgette: I can recall what it was like for me to be in high school, literally walking and passing through their halls.

I also ask, especially in my career prep class, what do you need to learn about your job now? What are your aches and pains on your job now? It becomes kind of fun, because I get their buy in into actually doing the assignments.

Last year we did a $20 challenge where you took a $20 bill. That’s it. You only have a $20 bill. You can only spend $20. When you run out, you’re done. They almost freaked out. They didn’t know what to do. It was part of our budgeting and working on a budget.

Many of them said, “I had to eat at home.” I had them do a Flipgrid, so they could tell me what they did during the assignment.

All of them spent their money on food. And then I had some kids that said, “I went to Sonic, and I don’t have any more money, and I don’t know what I’m going to do the rest of the week.”

It was a way of giving them real life examples of what it looks like to try to budget $20.

It isn’t really realistic because most of them have cars, and they have to drive to work. But they got the idea of what we were talking about.

I love to have them help me determine what the assessment is going to be, or what the final project will be based on a unit that we’re doing.

Jeff: With the lessons and projects that you have for your students, how much of it is material that you created yourself versus material that you adapted from a textbook publisher?

Bridgette: A lot of it is adapted. Some things I’ve created on my own out of inspiration or from the students.

Jeff: Have you ever used our Virtual Business simulations with your students?

Bridgette: I haven’t used it yet. Because I’ve got to make sure that I can put it in.

I know the Personal Finance, I was interested in, but I also have students who work in restaurants. Even though they’re working in the front of the house not the back of house, plenty of them have said they wanted to run their own business.

But definitely, I’m going to implement the Personal Finance one this year. I’ve been speaking with some of the teachers who are currently using that in their course and received some great feedback.

Jeff: Do you or any of your students participate in any of the Career and Technical student organizations like DECA, FCCLA, BPA, or FBLA?

Bridgette: My students really don’t because most of my students are off campus after fifth period and they’re going to work.

High School Business Teachers Should Join A Facebook Group for High School Teachers For Support, Camaraderie, and Useful Resources

Jeff: That’s all the questions I had. I wondered if you had any final words of wisdom that you have for other high school business teachers that you might want to share?

Bridgette: I would say, join a Facebook group.

There are so many that give so many resources. I have found joy in being in those groups just because they either have thought about it just as you have, or you have people who will give you grace and say, “It’s not that hard. We got you. We have you covered.”

The grace that we are asking for parents to give us right now, as we maneuver, this is also that same grace we should be giving to our students as well.

They also serve as a resource to others too. Even if it’s something as simple as sending a GIF to you or a JPEG that you saw or infographic that says how to email your teacher and you post that in Canvas.

The grace that we are asking for parents to give us right now, as we maneuver, this is also that same grace we should be giving to our students as well.

We can get through this. We are teachers. We are resilient. There’s nothing we can’t get through. So I wish you, well, I wish you peace.

Jeff: That’s great. Teachers are resilient.

Again, we’ve been speaking with Bridgette Wilkins, a business teacher at Pearland High School in Pearland, Texas. Bridgette, thanks for doing this interview.

Bridgette: Well, thank you.

The High School Business and Personal Finance Teachers podcast is brought to you by Knowledge Matters.

Knowledge Matters is the leading provider of Virtual Business simulations for high schools. Over a third of the high schools in the United States use virtual business simulations to teach business, marketing, and personal finance.

Virtual Business – Entrepreneurship is the most recent and most exciting Virtual Business simulation developed by Knowledge Matters. With Virtual Business – Entrepreneurship, you can teach your students the fundamentals of building and growing an entrepreneurial business from market research to elevator pitch, business plan, raising money and much, much more. The three new projects included with Virtual Business – Entrepreneurship include:

Shark project – Students pitch their business to classmates and seek virtual investments.

Business Plan project – Where teachers award students a loan based on their written business plan.

Mega Mogul project – students start with one business and work to grow and expand their entrepreneurial business enterprise.

That’s Virtual Business – Entrepreneurship from Knowledge Matters.