Educators Get Down to REAL Business During Summer

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Sept. 2, 2008 – While many high school teachers around the nation were taking time off to enjoy summer vacation, four educators from southeast Missouri were learning and teaching at the national REAL Entrepreneurship Institute in Sunset Beach, N.C. 

The teachers, including Kellie Reese of Bloomfield, Mo., Tammy Crowley of Dexter, Mo., Amanda Vickers of St. Louis, and Rachal Lereau of Cape Girardeau, Mo., were selected from applicants in the region to participate in Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship. Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship is a new program developed and directed by Southeast’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Harrison College of Business and funded by the Southeast Missouri WIRED Initiative. The program cultivates entrepreneurship education among elementary and secondary students intended to enhance economic growth and competitiveness by helping students become innovative thinkers and develop entrepreneurial skills, and providing teachers professional development and award-winning hands on curriculum.

The southeast Missouri teachers, who teach various business and marketing education courses at their respective high schools, completed an intensive five-day professional development program that certifies them to use Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship curriculum, which is provided and supported by NC REAL Enterprises, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides entrepreneurship education curriculum taught in 44 states and serving about 15,000 participants per year.

Amanda Vickers of Fox High School described her experience at the REAL Institute by saying, “It was an extremely valuable experience. Participants were given opportunities to work in groups to complete several of the REAL projects. The interactive training allowed us to become familiar with the curriculum so we could immediately make plans to integrate it into our existing classes. It was also an excellent opportunity to collaborate with other entrepreneurship teachers, which is always difficult to do during the school year,” she added.

What makes the Missouri Real Entrepreneurship curriculum unique is that it is comprised completely of hands-on activities that use the experiential learning model, according to Kellie Reese of Bloomfield High School.

“It just makes sense that students will learn more by actually completing a project similar to one they would complete if they were in the world of work,” she said. This is why I was so impressed with the REAL curriculum. It reminds me of one of my favorite Chinese proverbs, ‘Tell me and I’ll forget.  Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.’  The REAL curriculum enables students to be involved so they will understand,” Reese said.

Entrepreneurship is vital to the region’s economic success, and entrepreneurship education provides students an opportunity to explore creating a business while learning valuable critical thinking skills, according to Tammy Crowley of Dexter High School, who said the REAL Institute helped her understand the importance of entrepreneurship education.

“Many economists believe that the future prosperity of the United States is dependent upon how well our current businesses respond to the increasingly competitive global marketplace,” Crowley said. “It is imperative that we create entrepreneurial ventures using local resources that have global market potential. It is equally important that our students are encouraged to think outside the box and adapt an entrepreneurial mindset as they prepare to compete in the global market.  Entrepreneurship classroom activities force students to look at the ordinary and create how they can make something extraordinary out of it.”

The REAL Institute attracted a diverse group of participants including teachers, administrators and representatives from various community organizations throughout the United States. At the Institute, participants addressed the theory and methodology of experiential education; studied and used the Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship curriculum as they planned to implement the activities in their courses; learned the basics of business planning, marketing, operations and finance; and prepared for the implementation of the program in their schools or organizations.

In Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship, students assess their own interests and skills, analyze the local community and economy, select promising business ideas based on their research, write comprehensive business plans for the ventures, and (if they choose) actually open and operate the businesses they have created. The goals of Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship are to empower individuals, to promote experiential education, and to revitalize rural communities through the creation of businesses and jobs.

With the fall semester beginning, these southeast Missouri teachers are hard at work integrating the Missouri REAL program in their classes. As they gain experience using the curriculum they are also working with the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies to plan the first ever Missouri REAL Teaching Institute, which will be hosted at Southeast Missouri State University next summer. This will provide an opportunity for many teachers in the region and hundreds of students to benefit from this innovative program, said Dr. James Stapleton, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

“We are very excited to extend the reach of our entrepreneurship education programs on the Southeast Missouri State University campus to secondary students and teachers throughout southeast Missouri,” he said. “The University is very proud of the entrepreneurial success of past graduates and will play an important role in the regional entrepreneurship system as we work together to maintain our competitiveness in the new economy. Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship provides tools for teachers that will enable young students to become entrepreneurs and leaders of entrepreneurial firms,” Stapleton said.

Attendance at the REAL Institute and development of Missouri REAL Entrepreneurship was made possible by Southeast Missouri WIRED, a Department of Labor initiative funneled through the Workforce Investment Board, that is focused on building regional and community partnerships to promote economic health by strategically increasing the skills of the region’s students and workers.  Encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation is a key component of WIRED’s overall mission of promoting economic and workforce development on a regional scale.

About the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies

The Center for Entrepreneurial Studies directs a diverse number of entrepreneurship education programs to business and non-business students across campus, including an undergraduate entrepreneurship minor that compliments any major, an entrepreneurship option within the business administration major, an interdisciplinary University Studies course and an option in entrepreneurship within the nationally acclaimed master of business administration degree. The Center also supports a number of co-curricular initiatives that inspire kindergarten through eighth grade, secondary, and postsecondary students to think innovatively and adapt an entrepreneurial mindset. Combined with the community-based programs provided at Southeast’s Innovation Center, Southeast Missouri State University provides the most comprehensive entrepreneurship education and training programs in Missouri.