Juniour Achievement – Enhancing learning via JA


Junior Achievement was set up with the goal of helping kids stay in school and respect education and also teach them life skills to survive if they drop out of school.

Junior Achievement (JA) relies on companies which want to make a difference in the communities where they do business.

In Canada and USA, employers send out their employees fully paid for one day a year. All disciplines. The hope is that we can influence young kids to appreciate education by teaching them life skills.

JA has many programs. My employers always preferres the Economics of Staying in School (ESIS) then the Business Program.

First school in Toronto was easy. It was a high end neighbourhood where all the kids wanted to be medical doctors, lawyers, investment bankers or professors. mean a rich family teaches kids to go into such things?

We get onto the life section and budgeting section. I am stuck with adolescents all day. The kids breathed through it. They had to do a budget based on which job they would do.

I had taken job ads just in case some considered dropping out in high school. I then look at their expenses and some had a viper, corvette plus a condo on the beach. Wanji!!! Then I look at their chosen professions. There was nothing to teach them.

Following year I asked JA and the company to send me in a poor area. We had some people not go into that area as the kids were brutal. And many were black.

This is grade 7/8 and heading to high school. Frist kid tells me “the system is against black kids and we have no black hereos”.  That was easy to handle. I told the little monster to write down all his best musicians and actors.

We get to the budgeting section and a kid tella me “I do not need Maths. I shoot the best hoops and someone will take care of all that”.  I then made him stand up and read about all the sports stars whose money was taken by agents simply because they could not add and subtract.

Then magic. Teachers are supposed to stay in the class when there is a volunteer. Mr. G had abandoned me eith his students.

Some volunteera had left or made to leave. When you are not a born teacher, you cannot survive a full day in a class of kids. Most of us choose not to teach kids because it is a teacher’s job.

Mr. G walks into the class while my students are making progress. We were down on rent and other monthly ecoenses and taxes off gross income.

“Hey class, guess what I am hiding behind me!”.

The kids are like “you got us candy?”.

Then he lets go. All the kids run with an excitement beyond belief.

“Mommy, I had no idea you were a teacher!”.

I watched the older kids embrance the 4yr old. She was loved a lot and I even had no idea.

I had declared on the sign up form the conflict of interest. The company always taught us to do full disclosure but on the form I had written that my child must not know that I was gonna teach in her school or else she would be too embarrassed and get a belly ache.

The teacher watched me struggle with adolescents and took off to make it more human for them to listen.

All the students and staff at St. Elizabeth Seton loved Becky but there was no way it was an excuse. Had they known in the beginning, the teaching would have been a breezy. Never use grace and take it for granted. Most especially, let your kids also be roughed up.

The tears when we were transferred from Toronto and now she was 6yrs old, the students, teachers, headmaster and all staff.

Mr. G who had never taught her but used to supervise lunch and playground wrote to her and enclosed a pen. Her conservatory teacher wrote to her “remember your first piano teacher Yuliya, I have also moved to the Maritimes. Keep in touch”.

“Mom, I kind do not remember them but they seem nice”.

That is the power of a great teacher. I had taught research analysis to graduate students in Toronto. None of them have contacted me. I was stunned when a kid contacted me from USA and reminded me that I used to help him wtite his computer programs and thanked me.

This one was taking his bachelor in Computers and I was in the computer lab day and night. I never wanted anyone who crossed my path not get their degree. I was a student myself but a bit ahead so I had a good a good paying job to teach other kids to also do well.

Academia pays very well in Canada. Chose to stay out. My best kids were the little ones. For how can you teach a PhD candidate how to analyse their research and they do not say thanks? Then at the same time you are teaching a kid how to analyze financials and they say thanks.

If you choose to teach, start with the little ones. They look up to you. They only want to learn. University students are like “what do you even know?”. Excuse me genius, maybe a bit more than you or else you would not be in my class. Professors suffer.

Martha Leah Nangalama

Moncton, Canada

Twitter: mlnangalama

Passionate about education.


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