Sue Hoffman

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As a 30-year veteran business teacher at Mahtomedi High School, Sue Hoffman knows more than a little about engaging student interest in topics relating to money, finance and the economy. In her opinion, the real-world experiences and fun that Junior Achievement brought to her school as part of that curriculum can’t be matched.

“It’s such a nice partnership and it brings to life what I’m teaching these kids out of a book,” she says enthusiastically. “I watch how the kids interact using JA and it is fabulous. It teaches them not just about business, but life lessons.”

Hoffman has had her hand in a number of JA programs at Mahtomedi and is a tireless advocate of the program. With her help, Mahtomedi students have been able to take part in a number of offerings, including the computer simulation game JA Titan, JA Company Program, JA Career Success (a new pilot program focused on employment in high-growth industries) and JA Finance Park Virtual, an online personal finance management tutorial.

“JA has been a wonderful, wonderful partner for me and I really dove into the deep end this year with their different programs,” Hoffman says. “My kids did the JA Company Program for the first time this past year and they decided to sell 10-ft. long iPhone chargers. When they first came up with that, I was thinking, ‘Whoever needs a 10-ft. charger?’ but then I got it; you’re at the airport [and need to reach an outlet] or you want to sit in front of the television. And they really did well.”

Hoffman believes that her kids not only learn through the various JA experiences, they have a great deal of fun as they do so. “I implement JA Titan in all of my classes,” she explains. “It’s kind of like a carrot, because the kids really like it. Seeing kids who may have never really collaborated together working to figure out how much they should sell that hologram generator for [the item students must price, market and sell in the simulation], and how much they should devote to research or philanthropy or whatever, that was really fun.”

Hoffman is always working to teach students practical business skills, including how to efficiently operate computer programs such as Microsoft Office, so she was particularly pleased to lead a JA Job Shadow group to, well, the local Microsoft office.

“We had an opportunity to do a job shadow with Microsoft and I opened that up to all of my classes,” she says. “I had 37 students who were interested so I took 37 kids out there and they learned all about Microsoft. They had to ‘market and sell’ a product in front of everybody, and it was really cool.”

She is also impressed with a relatively new offering, the JA Career Success program. “It was great,” Hoffman says about the pilot program she participated in, which is designed to equip students with the tools and skills they will need to work in a number of quickly expanding industries. “That program talks about the 4Cs—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. And then we’d do activities with that, either lessons that were designed for us or project-based activities.”

Hoffman says she supports the wide variety of JA programs available because she’s seen how meaningful they can be to students. “I really saw with this group of kids this year, they get it. They are starting to figure out important concepts like paying themselves first and the light bulb goes off. JA is my connection for preparing students for the real world and career readiness.”