An Interview with Ann Arbor Skyline High School Teacher Michelle Wargo
Business and Marketing magnet teacher
Skyline High School
Ann Arbor, MI
What relevant subject do you teach?
I teach the Business and Marketing magnet at Skyline High School. This is an application-based program that kids start in 10thgrade and continue until 12thgrade. The focus is marketing and entrepreneurship so this pitch contest is very relevant to what we do in our curriculum.
What grades do you teach this subject to?
As stated above – 10th, 11th and 12th
What attracted you to this contest?
I heard the executive director of the Blue Ocean Competition speak to all of the Business CTE teachers in our district and this is what first opened my eyes to the competition. I always encourage my students to participate in any pitch idea contest. They already develop an idea and a business plan in class so it is a great way to get their idea out there, network with others and practice their pitching skills. And what high school kid doesn’t need money!
What did you hope to accomplish or have the students learn?
By senior year, my students have developed multiple ideas for a product, service or business. They have written a professional business plan and have pitched the idea to classmates. This is an opportunity for kids to submit their ideas professionally outside of the classroom and possibly have something come of the idea. This makes them realize that they actually have the chance for their ideas to become reality.
Why this contest and not another one?
My students participate in many pitch competitions, not just this one. This has been the only one that I have had someone come in to talk about the pitch and present it to the students. Ted Dacko came in personally to chat to the kids and I think this helped them get motivated and excited.
How did you integrate this into your curriculum?
I decided to assign it to my senior students for a grade. I did open it up to the other grades but not for a grade. Generally, students won’t do things and take initiative if they are not getting a grade for it.
How did you work together with your students? Who did what?
It did not take much set up on my end. Just communicating to the students, setting a due date for the class to submit their pitch and giving them some time in class to talk in groups about their ideas, decide to use an existing idea or create a totally new one. During this time, I walked around listening to their ideas and giving feedback. I also showed them the video and PowerPoint from the Blue Ocean website and talked to them about what should be included in their pitch.
What was hard?
We did have a few technical problems when submitting to the link. It did not work the first day, there were not enough spaces to put in team names (only one person) and there was not a specified spot for school name on the submit form. Kids were a bit frustrated with this and it took some time to link groups together on my end to give them points for submitting. Ted was very proactive in helping to fix these things and was very helpful in answering any questions I had immediately.
What was easy?
It was easy for my students to do a pitch because they have already learned what is in an effective pitch.
Will they be graded (on participation, on the pitches…)?
Students will be graded on participation only.
Did you need your school to help in any way?
No, this was strictly part of the business magnet. A teacher can do this alone.
Was there value to your school in your entering and/or winning?
Yes, we could potentially win money for our program. The kids were excited about this and were already thinking of ways we could spend the money if we won.
What advice do you have for other teachers thinking about using the Blue Ocean Competition in their classes?
If you teach an entrepreneurship class, it is a great way to get kids involved and share their ideas. This could take their tiny idea into the next level if they are really serious about developing it into an actual product or business. There are also tools on the website to help you teach the ideas of finding an opportunity for an idea that could be helpful in teaching.