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Jacqueline Prester, Business & Technology Teacher in Mansfield, MA Interview

Welcome to the second episode of The High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters. This second episode of the podcast features an interview with Jacqueline Prester, a business and technology teacher Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Massachusetts. See below for a transcript of the interview.

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The High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters is designed to interview 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.

Stay tuned for more episodes of the podcast coming soon! Please help us spread the news about this new podcast. Thank you!

If you’re a high school business, marketing, or personal finance teacher, we’d love to interview you for the podcast. Please send us an email at

Transcript of Episode 2 of the High School Business and Personal Finance Teachers Podcast

Host: Welcome to the second episode of the high school business and personal finance teachers podcast. Stay tuned for our interview with Jacqueline Prester. Jacqueline is a business teacher at Mansfield High School in Mansfield,Massachusetts. Stay tuned for the interview.

Virtual Business simulations are the leading cloud based educational simulations for teaching business personal finance and marketing at the high school level.

There are currently eight different virtual business simulations available: retail, hotel, restaurant, management, personal finance, accounting, sports and entertainment marketing, and fashion.

Virtual Business simulations are used in one-third of the high schools in the U.S.. You can learn more about virtual business simulations at w w w knowledge matters dot com.

Host: Welcome back to the Knowledge Matters podcast where we talk to high school teachers about how they got started teaching and tips and tricks they have for teaching business to high school students. I want to welcome our latest guest Jacqueline Prester. Jacqueline teaches business at Mansfield High School in Mansfield Massachusetts. And in 2015 she won the Massachusetts Business Teacher of the Year award. Jacqueline, welcome to the podcast.

Jacqueline: Thanks for having me Jeff. Happy to be here.

Host: Great. Can you tell us what classes you currently teach at Mansfield High School?

Jacqueline: Right now I teach entrepreneurship, personal finance, and a new class this year that goes over Google applications. We just became a Google school and it’s a brand new course for us.

Host: Great. And how did you first get started teaching business.

Jacqueline: I am actually a career changer. Right out of college, I was working in the financial software industry and part of my job that I really liked was training my clients. I used to go around the country and teach training sessions for them and I started liking that part of my job more and more until all I could think about was changing careers and doing that all day long. So I started teaching.

Host: And so how long you have been doing that.

Jacqueline: This is my 11th year at Mansfield High School.

Host: Have you always taught business?

Jacqueline: I actually taught a half year, mid-year placement position, for math before I came to Mansfield. So I did half year as a math teacher and then I really missed business. So I looked for a position that would focus more on that. And I was able to find one,

Host: Can you take us through what a typical day is for you at school?

Jacqueline: Depending on our rotation, some days I don’t see certain classes. In my personal finance class right now,we are winding up the semester so students come in and they check their stocks. We use how the market works dot com to track portfolios and have the students invest and track stocks over the long term. So when they come into class that’s the first thing they do. They sign into their accounts, and then the trash talk starts about where they are ranked against each other. I give them about five-10 minutes to work on their stocks to buy or sell or whatever they need to do. Then we go into whatever the lesson happens to be. Today we were focusing on investment for retirement.

Host:: Given your experience to date with teaching business to high school students, what tips or tricks would you have for other teachers who are listening who are teaching business to high school students – either for veteran teachers or maybe someone who’s just starting out?

Jacqueline: I’ve really evolved since I started teaching business, and I have moved away from teaching out of a textbook. I have tried to make the classes more real and hands on for my students.

I really want it to be personal for them. I’m teaching personal finance and they’re learning how to handle money. And that is going to look very different for students who have a lot of money vs. students who have very little money or anywhere in between. I tried to make it personal for them, and I try to incorporate as many simulations and real world activities for them to make it useful for them. That’s the number one goal. If it’s not useful for them, they won’t take it from class and they won’t use it in their real life.

Host: What’s the planning process like for you in terms of lesson planning? If you’re not teaching out of a textbook, do you plan out a semester in advance or day by day or week by week. What’s your process?

Jacqueline: I do like the simulations that Knowledge Matters provides. I do have those simulations. I use the Virtual Business and Personal Finance and I like the order that those are taught in so I generally go by that. But some classes need a little bit more time on a particular topic and some classes might need less time.

Generally, I know what order I’m going in. Sometimes the length of time I spend on a particular topic will vary. What I usually do is go through the lesson from Knowledge Matters, and then I add some kind of a personalization and some kind of a real world touch to it.For example, when we talked about vehicles we did a lesson afterward where the students could research the prices of real cars and come up with a reasonably priced used car or a reasonably priced new car or something that they know only millionaires could afford. It really puts it in perspective for them to see the differences in prices and the types of loans and the types of insurance that comes with something like that. It really opens their eyes, and it helps them figure out what priorities they’ll have.

Host: Are your business classes considered electives?

Jacqueline: They are electives.

Host: Do you have to entice kids to sign up, and if so what what do you do?

Jacqueline: I really like to joke that I love freshmen. If I can get the freshmen in my classes, they like the style of how I’m teaching and the topics of what I’m teaching. And then they tend to come back. We have lots of repeat customers which is great. All the classes right now are at capacity. They are 100 percent booked.

Host: What years do you teach – freshmen through seniors?

Jacqueline: All of my classes are a mix of all four grade levels. OK. So it is very varied which sometimes can be difficult. You know when we do something in personal finance that relates to paychecks or insurance for cars, the younger students have never had an actual job that has a pay stub that they can relate to, or they’ve never driven before they have no idea how much the cost of gas is or what insurance looks like. Sometimes it’s tough in that regard, but they get very excited because there’s the promise of that happening in the future. So they want to be ready for it.

Host: Do you have a sense when your students come into your classroom, how much knowledge do they already have about personal finance and beyond personal finance just business in general? I would be willing to say that teenagers are aware of brands and businesses whether it’s Apple or Facebook or Snapchat. Is it eye opening for them to discover the business decisions that go into how much something is priced or how car insurance works?

Jacqueline: I do agree. I think when they come into the class there is a varying level of preexisting knowledge because simply I have freshmen versus seniors. What they have experience with will definitely vary. It’s also true for something like finance or talking about money.

It varies in their family too. Some families are very open about that and they have conversations, and they’re willing to talk to their children about budgets and bills and things like that. Whereas some families are not as prone to talk about that that kind of stuff. So I think the students that come in in that situation, they have more to learn and sometimes they’re a little overwhelmed by exactly how much things cost or what goes into making a decision in terms of pricing a product or any kind of a business decision based on money.

Host: You mentioned a little bit earlier but I wondered if you could take us through how you use the Virtual Business simulations with your students.

Jacqueline: I love the simulations. We’ve been using them for quite a while. We were very lucky to get the first one years ago. It was installed on the computers. It wasn’t on the cloud. We received that through a grant, and it was fantastic. We loved it.

Host: Was that Personal Finance or Accounting?

Jacqueline: It was the Personal Finance sim. We used that one and it kind of grew from there, because I loved it and it worked really well. The students loved the idea of being able to get instant grades. They would read something, and then they would take their quiz and they would get feedback right away. With the simulations, they really enjoyed playing the characters that they had and making decisions for them and seeing what kind of results came from those decisions.

We had such a good experience that when the new version came out where it was cloud based. It was very easy to convince the school that this is a jump we should take. We transitioned to the other version, and then we also added some others on as well. I use the restaurant one in my entrepreneurship class. Our marketing teacher the Sports Management sim, and his class has greatly expanded and it’s been great.

Host: Do you find that you typically work through the system through all the lessons?

Jacqueline: I go through them pretty much in the order that they are. There’s a few that I shift around depending on how many days I have to work within a particular week, or you know for vacations coming up and I want to fit something in. But I generally introduce the topic, and let them work through the reading and the math quizzes themselves, and work at their own pace to kind of gauge where the class knowledge is. And then, I do give my students the opportunity to reset any of the grades. It gives them that chance to do better to push themselves and it motivates them to get a higher score. The students work on the simulation and we talk about it, and then I incorporate some kind of real world activity after it. That’s typically the order that I go in for each project for each lesson.

Host: Great. Do your students participate in any of the Virtual Business Challenges that we run every year?

Jacqueline: We have not.

Host: I’m curious about why that is. I’m not trying to put you on the spot. It helps us in terms of our thinking internally.

Jacqueline: For us honestly, it’s a transition year. We have a brand new schedule in our school where the students are taking more classes now and we drop a class every day. So it has been a real transition. As a teacher as well because our class periods are a different length and we went from trimesters to two semesters so there’s so much influx that it was hard to take on anything new this year. We’re figuring out how everything that we did fits into our new current timeline, and then we’ll go from there.

Host: I’m wondering what keeps you motivated as a teacher.

Jacqueline: I love learning. I love school. I am a great teacher in that regard, because I never stop learning. If there is something new and exciting or if there’s a new theory or a new project or something new that’s happening in classrooms, I want to do it too. I’m always pushing myself to try to incorporate the new stuff in my classroom, because my students deserve it. My students deserve to be able to use the latest and greatest technology or participate in activities that are going to be fun and push the limits on their creative thinking and problem solving skills. I try to incorporate a lot of that into what I do.

Host: That’s all the questions that I had. Is there anything we didn’t discuss or any final words of wisdom that you would have for other high school business teachers who might be listening?

Jacqueline: I just think – give the students the opportunity to be creative. They really run with it when they have that chance. Sometimes people tend to regard business as a closed area of study. I find that that’s really far from the truth.

There are so many different directions you could jump into, and if you give the students a little bit of leeway in picking that I think it really helps and it gets them more engaged.

Host: Well again we’ve been speaking with Jacqueline Prester who teaches high school business in Mansfield Massachusetts. Thanks for doing this interview.

Jacqueline: Thanks Jeff.