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Marci Hargrove, Business Teacher in Keller, TX Interview

Welcome to the first episode of The High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters. This first episode of the podcast features an interview with Marci Hargrove, a business teacher at Central High School-Keller ISD in Keller, Texas. 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 1 of the High School Business and Personal Finance Teachers Podcast

Host: Welcome to the very first episode of the high school business and personal finance teachers podcast hosted by knowledge matters. I’m your host Jeff Rutherford. Stay tuned for our interview with Marci Hargrove, a business teacher at Central High School-Keller ISD in Keller, Texas. Stay tuned for the interview.

Knowledge Matters is the leading provider of cloud based educational simulations for teaching business, personal finance, and marketing at the high school level.

Welcome to the inaugural episode of the High School Business and Personal Finance Teachers Podcast produced by Knowledge Matters.

We’re hoping to talk to teachers about how they got started teaching and tips and tricks for teaching business to high school students. We’ll also talk to them a little bit about how they use Knowledge Matters’ Virtual Business simulations in their classrooms. I want to welcome our first guest to the podcast. Marci Hargrove is a business teacher at Central High School-Keller ISD in Keller, Texas. Marci welcome to the podcast.

Marci: Thank you so much Jeff. I appreciate you inviting me to do this.

Host: Sure. What grades and classes do you currently teach.

Marci: I currently teach grades 10 or 12 and I teach business information management 1, Business Information Management 2, accounting 1, accounting for business management and supervise the school store.

Host: Great. And how did you first get started teaching? How did you start your teaching career?

Marci: Well that’s a really good question. I started straight out of college. Both my parents were educators for all my life. My father was a head football coach and athletic director in towns across Texas. My mother had been in retail. She had worked retail up until she became certified, married my dad, became certified and then she finished her career as a teacher. So it just seemed like a natural thing for me to do.

I was familiar with it. I wish I could say that it was something that I was born to do. And I do feel as if part of me was born to do it. But I don’t know if it’s if it’s the kind of calling that , there are so many wonderful teachers who feel like just a deep passion and desire to teach, and I love what I do. But it never was something like that for me. That just wasn’t my experience.

Host: Have you always taught business?

Marci: Yes sir. My very first year I took a job just to have a job. I had graduated with a degree in which I could teach business classes. But at the time, business teachers, at least in Texas, when you got someplace then you stayed.

There were a lot of teachers in that field that weren’t leaving which made it difficult to find a position in a school district. And so my very first year, I took a position in a district where I taught special education to both junior high and high school students. It was a true challenge and learning experience, because I only had about six weeks of training in college for special education students. But I got there and within the second year of me being there, the business teacher left.

I took a different position in a different district and I was able to move into where I was teaching business classes, and also I taught reading to seventh graders. And then I also taught English to sophomores, because I have a double major with business and English.

Host: Great. So what’s a typical school day like for you?

Marci: Oh yes sir. Great question. My days this year are probably the most relaxed, I guess I could say, than I’ve ever had in my teaching career. They do differ this year than they have before. Used to, for 27 of my 28 years, it was a pretty filled and hectic day – extremely filled and hectic with a variety of classes.

Of course, you’ve got the differences in students. Just the challenge of teaching multiple levels all at the same time, with both male and female, all kinds of learning abilities and things like that. So differentiation is a must. Always has been and always will be.

So this year I’ve just been very fortunate that my administration was able to build a schedule that that allows me some time to just take a breath and and actually do some things, and I’ve changed my mindset the last couple of years.

I used to do a lot of things. I guess you call it front loading, or I did a lot of preparation work. And then the students would do things. But then I would also have a lot of follow-up work because of what they did.

And I’ve changed it to where now I do probably twice the amount of front-end work or front-load work. But then my back-end work on it is substantially less than it used to be. So the kids are involved. They do everything. I just monitor.

I instruct a tiny bit. In certain classes, I have to instruct more than others. And then they’re the ones who do all the work thankfully.

Host: So tell me a little bit more about the front loading work that you do. Can you go into a little bit more detail about that.

Marci: Yes sir. I’ve never been one who likes to necessarily use a textbook as the “be all and end all.” It’s always been a resource, but I’ve just never felt comfortable doing everything just like, “OK go to this page and do this and do that.”

I have created, I don’t even know how many, different projects. I’m using all of the various tools from year to year that our district has asked us to use and utilize.

We are now currently use a program called Canvas which I believe is probably what a lot of people across the United States use. It is the same type of program that they use in many colleges. It takes organization. I utilize the calendar feature. There’s all kinds of advanced features on it, but mostly I use it to post projects.

And I come up with all the projects. Like in my Business Information Management 2 class, those kids have been taught how to use the Microsoft Office package in Business Information Management 1. They have a working knowledge of those programs.

In Business Information Management 2, I take a survey of the class at the beginning of the year and they give me subject matters that they’re interested in doing. And then we take a tally of those, and we group them into broad subject matters per six weeks.

Every six weeks, I create two projects: one in a program that they know about such as Word and then the other will be in a new program that I want to show. Something brand new. Every year, I do customized projects for each of those classes and each of those different six weeks.

Host: All this customisation work that you’re talking about – are these things you’re coming up with on your own and using year to year, or are there resources out there that you like to go to to get ideas from?

Marci: Typically, it’s just me coming up with them from year to year. If I were better at being able to save things that I have created over the years, then I think that it probably would not take me as much time to do that. I often progress and change just because I don’t particularly care about using the same thing from year to year. That’s just never been something that I think is good for me. I could if I wanted to. I just choose not to.

Host: Given your experience at teaching business and business concepts to high school students. do you have any particular tips or tricks or or ideas about curriculum that you would care to share with other teachers who might be listening?

Marci: I’m kind of unique in the fact that this is all I’ve ever done and many many teachers that work in this field have a lot of outside of the classroom experience. I often want to listen to them and kind of what they have to do. I think that what I’m good at is the education part.

As far as the content and the knowledge part, I would suggest if someone is in the same position as I that they that they just do the research and keep things as current as possible with technology changing all the time.

For lack of a better way explain it, you have to goldmine thing. Where you put your pan down and hopefully you pick up a few nuggets, and you try and use those nuggets. Take those things, and use those, and try to sift away all the extra stuff. I would just encourage people to be open, and try not to get into a rut. Utilize the Internet. In our district, we had the Internet for the first time 15 or 16 years ago, maybe more like 20.

I was teaching these classes before the internet was available.

Use the Internet and what it has to offer – apps and things like that. Just be open to those things and use them in ways that are engaging to students. My students enjoy the learning process much, much more when there are projects vs. the day-in and day-out stuff. They like the project-based things.

Host: Versus you standing in front of the class talking or lecturing.

Marci: Oh yes. Exactly.

We just finished an assembly-line project. I made them make a prototype of clipboards with the school store. We’re trying to make products that we can sell in the school store that are made by students.

I had them make the prototype. I have managers. We have four teams. Let me back up. I have two classes. We’re on an A-B schedule. I have an A day class, and B day class, and I have four teams in each class.

I made the managers for each team create a prototype. Then today’s assignment was that those team members today had to replicate those prototypes three more times. We were going to donate one to an auction that our district director told us about. The money raised for it goes to scholarships for CTE students. We donated one per team for that. The other three that each team made are being sold in the school store.

Host: I’m curious about the classes that you teach. Are they classified as electives at your school? What do you do to interest students in signing up for next year? Do you have anything organized that you do to get students interested?

Marci: Well yes. I try to. I know this isn’t about your sims, but I do think your sims have helped in that effort for me especially the personal finance one. The parents are more interested in making sure that we cover those things.

Often they maybe don’t have the time or the patience to cover personal finance with their kids. By getting the parents involved and feeling that there is value in what we teach, that’s often enough to get the kids interested.

But it is it is in large part our district. I have students who choose their classes. And so just building a rapport with kids. Word of mouth is the best way. If I have a good relationship with a certain group of students, then I’m hoping that they will tell their younger siblings or they will tell their friends and say, “Hey, why don’t you take this class?”

That’s my preferred method. I have done other things, but I don’t go out and talk to kids individually or anything like that. I’m not into recruiting. I never have been. I don’t do well with it.

We do announcements. I’ve had kids create commercials that we run on the announcements. We’ve had kids tweet or post things to social media if we’re on a field trip.

On some field trips over the years, I asked them take a picture and then immediately send it out and say, “Hey this is what we get to do.”

Host: Can we talk about how you use the Knowledge Matters Virtual Business simulations in your classes.

Marci: Sure. The very first one I ever used was the personal finance one. I’ll back up even further than that. I’m not the first one on this campus who knew about Knowledge Matters. One of the teachers that was in my department at the time, I was the acting department head for the department at the time, and he came to me. He had been to, I believe, a conference. I can’t remember what conference but he taught sports and entertainment marketing. Was that one of the first ones y’all had?

He brought it to me and asked, “Hey can we get this for my class and I said well sure.” I said, “Let me look at it.” I looked at it and I was like wow this is really interesting. This is awesome. And I said man I really wish that they had something that I could use. And he was like, “I think there’s some other ones. This is just the one of course that applies to my class” I said OK I will then I’ll look into it. We were a new school at the time. We had just opened up. We were inundated with all kinds of resources and stuff, but I took a moment and looked. I have a very, very, very strong belief in how important personal finance matters are. If we can get people who understand how to handle their money on a personal level, then maybe it will translate into a broader level.

I thought that was something that I could use in some way. I decided that I would see if I could have access to it, and then use it as an extra credit for all of my business classes.

They gave me permission to do that. I think they gave me one classroom license or something. I can’t remember. And, as it grew, I had kids – it’s funny. They were like, “I just died. Why did I die?”

Well you got to have a balance. You can’t just work all work and no play. They were like, “I just got robbed!” And I’m like, yep, did you have insurance? It just grew as far as interest. The kids were like, oh my gosh, this is really cool.

That’s how I used it at first. I still use that one. I still use that one as an extra credit option for my business classes where there isn’t a sim available for the course itself. It’s something they can do above and beyond what we do.

A couple of years ago, I did the “Winner winner chicken dinner” thing. That was with the accounting simulation.

With the personal finance one, I use it as an extra credit option. I get them started, and I tell them that they have to work in it a certain amount of time. At the end of the year, we had a competition. I got lifesavers and whoever had the highest score. I got dum dums and said, “You’re not a dummy when it comes to your credit score.”

They were like, “Oh my gosh, did I win?” That one I use as more of an extra credit.

For the accounting one, I used for the first time last year, I was excited because you cover it in the textbook. I try to save my district money by utilizing Microsoft Excel instead of having to order those working papers every year. I teach the kids how to do accounting, how to record transactions and all that stuff in Excel. But,until you put it into practice, they’re just like, “Ok great.” I mean I know how to do it but I don’t understand how I would do it or when I would do it or anything like that. After we got through with the very first part – teaching the kids how to keep books for a service business as a sole proprietorship – that gave them a basis because I believe the accounting sim is actually running a computer repair shop.

It really goes along with the next level which is teaching kids how to run or how to do books for a merchandising business run as a partnership. That’s how our textbooks are. It doesn’t perfectly match up with how we do it, but they still get the same skills and they still can see if they truly understand how to keep books. The worksheet part is amazing! They really do have to figure out, “Ok how do I do adjustments? How do I do this?” It’s really good! I use it as initial instruction, but also they just have to work in it and learn how to do it. It’s curriculum, and I usually use it in the last six weeks. And that’s where we do the “winner winner chicken dinner” competition.

Host: Can you talk about that a little bit about “winner, winner chicken dinner?”

Marci: Yes. It’s just a silly play on words. I heard somebody say it, and I thought that’s kind of catchy. Down here in the south, of course, that’s the type of stuff that’s said all the time.

I thought I could figure out a prize structure. I’m sorry to kind of divert this. I’ve been a cheerleader sponsor, a senior class sponsor, a student council sponsor, a drill team sponsor, and the department head. I’ve had to come up with all kinds of prize structures over my lifetime which is what a lot of teachers have to do.

And I was like ok. I I figured out you had to have a team competition. If your team got third place, then I essentially gave them a rubber chicken. For second place teams, I bought a bunch of nuts and raisins and things like that. And I bought little boxes at Party City, and I made “chicken feed” and gave them that. That was the second prize.

Then the first prize was I gave all the members a $10 gift card. I let them choose Chicken Express or Chick-Fil-A. I went ahead and got each team member that. They use the multiplayer option in the sim, and at the end of the competition, the business that had earned the most was the winner.

Host: That’s great. Do you have your students participate in the Virtual Business Challenges that we run each year?

Marci: Yes sir. Here’s the funny thing about that.

Probably four or five years ago, two young men who were in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) were in my class. I’m not the sponsor of that particular organization. The sponsor came to me and said, “Hey did you know that they have a competition for this.” I said, “No and that’s wonderful.”

She said, “Do you have anybody who would want to do it?” I asked some students and for our campus you have to be a member of FBLA to compete. That year we didn’t. We learned about it too late in the year.

The next year though there were two young men. That’s what they signed up to do. Because FBLA, the sponsor at the time, allowed the kids to pick which competition they wanted to do and they chose to do that. They were able to do the competition while in my classroom during down time – as well as do it at home.

That was the first time I knew about the online sims. The very first time we got the sims they were all standalone. You had to install them on your computer and all that.

The online thing is just amazing really. It just really is. I was impressed with them when it was a standalone version. Now with it being online, it’s just awesome. They did compete. That’s the only year that I’ve ever had anybody do that because I don’t have any more FBLA members in my class for some reason. I’m not sure how that worked out.

The two of them they ended up being the number one numbers one and two position. I remember that they competed both in the fall challenge and in the spring maybe there were two rounds or something. And they finished in positions one and two both times.

Host: I’m curious given your use of the Virtual Business sims if you have any ideas or suggestions in terms of future simulations or topics.

Marci: Oh wow. My goodness. That’s quite a question. I don’t even know how to start with that because y’all have thought of everything. Y’alls brains are so much better than mine. I am so impressed with the detail that you have.

The one thing that they have said over the years is they are like, “Why can’t I get married?” And I’m like well I don’t know. I was like well I don’t know. Every single year somebody says “Why can I get married?”

I don’t know why but they’re just trying to teach you individual personal financial responsibilities. Just go with it .

Host: We’ll take that into consideration. I was going to mention, we have a new sim that came out a few weeks ago – Virtual Business Fashion. We’re very excited about Virtual Business Fashion.

Marci: Yes I think our fashion teacher is using it now. I don’t know for sure but I think she is.

Y’all did a fantastic job about mimicking different situations that can occur unexpectedly. On the online version, you can have all of a sudden get a torn ACL. Well I think that’s amazing because the kids don’t understand that unexpected and unplanned medical emergencies happen in real life all the time. If you aren’t’ prepared for those, if you haven’t used savings or anything like that then . . .

Oh goodness this is probably going to alienate many people. But I can say. That’s your fault. You shouldn’t spend all your money. You should have put some back. But I do appreciate that you do mimic those unexpected expenses.

The only other thing that I might say – and maybe it’s there and I just didn’t know it. We just had this conversation today and the student said. “How much should I put back out of every paycheck?” And I said well I think the standard rule is that you should put at least 10 percent of your paycheck into your savings. Is that an option when you do direct deposit? Can you automatically take 10 percent of your paycheck and put it into your savings like you can in real life?

Host: I’ll have to check into that. I don’t have the answer off the top of my head.

Marci: Yeah that would be something just because direct deposit is the way people do it now. I know that the way I put it into savings is that I never even see the money. It just comes out of my paycheck and goes directly into my savings. And the other portion goes directly into my bank account. Something like that would be realistic and beneficial.

Host: That’s all the questions I have. Is there anything we discussed or any final words of wisdom that you would have for other high school business teachers?

Marci: I am I really I just I’m the only thing I can say is just constantly be OK with change because it’s the only thing that we’re sure of. It’s it’s always going to change and be adaptable and stay positive. OK. As best you can. I know that there are many challenges out there that keep you from sometimes being positive. day in and day out and in many them are beyond your control. My control. And I think that as being a teacher for this song I’ve learned to let go of the things I can’t control. That is something our administrators here have just beat into our brains. And I know that as a teacher you get desperately to make a positive impact for your students on your students for the future for the future. But just accept the things that are out of your control stay positive and have fun with it.

Host: Just have fun with them. Great. Well we’ve been speaking with Marci Hargrove. Marci thank you so much.