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Stories That Matter

Posted Date: 03/17/2021

Stories That Matter

After spending three weeks in a business job, working in a cubicle, Justin Neel knew that he wanted to teach. Seven years later, Justin has built a hands-on learning environment for his business and marketing students at Caddo Hills High School. “I believe by giving students opportunities to experience what they are learning, it will make the greatest impact. Know it. Show it. Grow it,” That’s the philosophy for a program that has gotten $300,000 in grants for Caddo Hills School District and a $1.6 million broadband grant for the community.  < /p>

Justin began his “real” classroom environment by allowing his students to open a store, develop products to sell in the store, market the products, and manage all aspects of the “business”. Working with a science teacher, Justin received an $89,000 grant for engineering. Now the engineering students design and fabricate products, and his students market and sell them. Recently students began creating TikTok video ads for their store. 

From this beginning, Justin and his students have expanded their impact. The Glenwood Chamber of Commerce office is currently located in the Caddo Hills High School and managed by Justin’s students. This partnership provides invaluable experience for students who create newsletters, logos, ads, and answer phones, as well as providing a service to their community. Justin was recently voted president of the local Chamber of Commerce. /p>

Besides taking students to regional and national competitions through Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and having a student currently serving as state FBLA vice president, Justin continues to allow students to pitch their business ideas and then develop those that are viable. “One of my students is now working with an embroidery machine that was in a closet and learning how to use it to create custom shirts and other items to be sold through our store,” Justin noted.  

Another big idea this creative teacher’s students have brought to reality is an Escape Room Bus. Rather than sell an older bus, the district allowed Justin’s students to keep it, redo the inside with help from the Agriculture department, and design Escape Rooms developed by the Gifted and Talented classes. The bus travels to fairs, the DeQueen-Mena Education Cooperative, and other events as a portable escape room, educational tool, and fund-raiser.   /

Justin is the real deal in making learning real for all his students.  One student summed up her experience: “I never imagined I’d run a store. It will better my future, for sure.”  And that is the goal.

Submitted by DeQueen-Mena Education Service Cooperative           #TeachArkansas

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