Learning from local professionals

21st century skills and financial literacy the focus of JA program for students

“I’ve just been thrilled with the level of support and commitment from local businessmen and women, and I’m very excited about the potential.”

Marshalltown Schools Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte said the upcoming Junior Achievement (JA) Program will benefit young district students this semester.

“This really provides a substantive effort to integrate college and career readiness-type of material in the elementary schools,” he said of the program. “That foundation really has to start from preschool or kindergarten.”

He said he was impressed with the JA Program during his time as superintendent of Bettendorf Community Schools. The program will begin at Hoglan and Rogers elementary schools, along with the fifth grade at Lenihan Intermediate School.

“I decided that we wanted to start small because it relies on a lot of volunteers to do it in a district of our size,” Schutte said. “That’s usually the challenge, because usually the scarcest commodity people have is time.”

However, he said 38 of the 40 available volunteer positions have been filled, and that the program may extend to third elementary school later in the spring. Additionally, the program is planned to be implemented at remaining elementaries in the fall.

The curriculum is also planned to be added in the Marshalltown High School 4-H Leadership Club and at the upcoming summer school program this year.

“We want the volunteers to share their personal and professional experiences with the students,” said JA of Central Iowa Inc. Vice President of Education Brenda Dryer. “That volunteer is going to make five visits, so they’re going to create a rapport and be another positive role model for those students as well.”

She added the JA curriculum aligns with Iowa Core standards.

“Every program is aligned with the Iowa Core, so the things that the volunteers are presenting are things [students] should be accomplishing,” Dryer said.

Additionally, Schutte said the volunteers from community organizations and businesses will be delivering the JA curriculum, which focuses on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and “21st century skills.”

“Volunteers will be assigned to a particular classroom and teacher, and they will work with that teacher to develop a mutually agreeable time that that volunteer can come in to deliver the Junior Achievement curriculum,” Schutte said. “Basically, it’s five visits of anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes each, typically trying to keep them about a week apart.”

With many JA centers located in larger urban areas, Schutte said it was good to reach out to Dryer about bringing the program, and the opportunities that come with it, to Marshalltown students.

“I really wanted to investigate what it would take to provide those opportunities for our kids, just like the kids have in those metropolitan areas,” Schutte said, adding district- and building-level administrative teams were “excited” about the program.

Two training sessions for volunteers have taken place, and a third round of training, separated into three sessions, is set for Jan. 26. at the Central Administration Office.

“I’m just going to go over some best practices that I’ve learned,” Dryer said. “I also will go over how the curriculum is laid out; if you can read and like children, you will be great.”

Schutte said students are not the only ones to find a sense of reward from the program.

“In my past experience, it’s been extremely rewarding opportunity; not only for the students … but it’s also rewarding for the volunteers,” he said. “They wind up developing relationships over that period of time with the class.”

For more information on the JA Program, email Schutte at tschutte@marshalltown.k12.ia.us or call the Central Administration Office at (641) 754-1000.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com