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          The Wire

          National Officer Blog

          BPA advisor named Illinois Teacher of the Year, answers questions

          Contributed by The Wire

          Congratulations to Kevin Rutter, BPA advisor at Carl Schurz High School in Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Rutter has been named Illinois teacher of the year!

          Mr. Rutter was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer The Wire's questions about his new title and his passion for teaching.

          Illinois Teacher of The Year

          <br />BPA advisor Kevin Rutter was the 2009 Illinois Teacher of the Year
          BPA advisor Kevin Rutter was the 2009 Illinois Teacher of the Year
          What classes do you teach, and what are your students like?

          I teach in and coordinate a Business, Finance, and Careers Academy, a small learning community at Carl Schurz High School.  My classes are geared toward personal finance, service professional work skills, fundamental economic principles, and financial literacy.  The overall goal of the program is to prepare students for post-secondary education, expose them to professional service careers/opportunities and place them in job shadows/internships.

          Carl Schurz is a neighborhood (non-magnet) school, comprised primarily of Hispanic students.  We do, however, have quite a mix of students which is why our school's motto is "a block long and a world wide."

          What level of involvement do you have in BPA? Have you taken students to conferences? If so, which ones? Is BPA an important part of your teaching plan?

          Funny you should ask, we just were at the Illinois Association's Fall Leadership Conference, November 20-21 in which two of our students were elected as state officers.  Patricia Eclarin is now the Illinois BPA Treasurer and Juan Reyes is now the Illinois BPA Vice President of State Projects.  We have had three consecutive years of representation on the state officer team.  Megan Ghanayem, Illinois BPA Historian 08-09 and Valdemar Duran, Illinois BPA Vice President of Special Recognition.  The FLC has become an integral part of our curriculum, giving our students an incredible opportunity to network with students from around the state, participate in leadership training exercises, and have a chance at a state officer position. 

          Our school also participate in contests at the State Leadership Conference in the Spring with a special focus on accounting, word processing, and financial ananlysis team. The cohort of teachers that work in the Business, Finance and Careers Academy make sure to prepare the students for these contests.

          What makes up a positive learning environment and a good teacher?

          For some reason I have always been able to communicate with teenagers easily.  Establishing an environment that is comfortable, yet challenging is always the biggest challenge.  I do not think there is any magic formula to being a good teacher.  Work hard, be nice, set the example, keep things organized are the first steps.

          Do you have any somewhat unorthodox teaching methods that are effective? If so, what are they?

          We have a very unique program in that we have incredible connections to the outside world.  So, while my teaching style is not especially unorthodox, our program is.  We had over 200 job shadows in 2008-09, 75 paid internships, and over 50 guest speakers from the top non-profit, corporate, university and government institutions in Chicago.  These include Junior Achievement, HACE (Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement), Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, TCF Bank, Verizon, University of Illinois Chicago, the Federal Reserve Chicago, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, to name a few.

          How do you get students to be interested in and engaged with the material you teach?

          All of the things taught in the Business, Finance and Careers Academy have real world implications.  I would say being able to tie the subject matter into what is happening the in the real world and their future lives is the key.

          How is it that you ended up winning Illinois Teacher of the Year?

          I was originally nominated by a retired teacher from the Business, Finance and Careers Academy.  Letters of reference were then written for me by students, a parent, a community group (HACE), our Principal, and a fellow teacher along with an essay describing my philosophy of teaching and achievements during the 08-09 school year.  In September, the Illinois State Board of Education informed me that I was a top ten finalist and I was interviewed on camera.  That video was then given to former Illinois Teachers of the Year who selected their top 3 candidates.  Finally, the State Superintendent, Dr. Christopher Koch, chose the winner.

          What would you say to BPA members looking to advance towards a successful business career?

          It is so important to be active in high school, exposing yourself to as many opportunities as possible.   Take a risk, run for office, take that internship, meet people in the community.  It is a tough, competitive world out there and students will need to develop skills to be successful.  The only way to do that is to get involved.

          What advice can you offer for upcoming/current teachers who want to equip students for the future?

          It is so important to relate the importance of education.  As educators we must sell learning.  Not every students sees the big picture, we must try hard to make it real and open their eyes to the opportunities that are our there. 

          We thank Mr. Rutter for his commitment to students' educations, including his role as a BPA advisor. We also thank him for taking the time to answer our questions.

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