Raise your hand if your life looks different today than how you thought it might look 10 years ago. What about one year ago? Most are familiar with the chaos, confusion, and joy that can come from life’s unexpected twists and turns.
In Texas, two educators teach high school entrepreneurship curriculum… but that isn’t what they originally set out to do. Taking a page from their INCubatoredu lesson plans, these teachers, new to INCubatoredu, Lyquisha Ballard and Nicole Franczvai, stepped into uncharted territory to try something new and grew in ways they didn’t expect.
Teaching Entrepreneurship: A Love Story
After 10 years teaching at The Colony High School near Dallas, Lyquisha Ballard had done it all. She’d taught several classes in the course catalog, could navigate the hallways with her eyes closed, and was starting to wonder what she even loved about being a teacher in the first place. “I thought maybe it was time to leave teaching because it wasn’t fulfilling me anymore,” she says. “Then my boss came to me and said, ‘Hey, there’s this thing called INCubatoredu, wanna try it?’”
Not sure what to expect, Lyquisha said yes. And just like everything else in life, she could have never predicted where the decision would take her. “When I began teaching INCubatoredu, I knew the experience would put my teaching under a spotlight. That made me uncomfortable,” Lyquisha recently shared. “I worried about the scrutiny. What if I wasn’t perfect?”
A core tenet of entrepreneur curriculum is letting students learn from failure—but oftentimes, it’s the hardest lesson they (and their teachers) have to learn. “I had to look in the mirror and realize I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. I was telling my students that it’s OK to fail and giving them tools to rebound from their disappointments or failures, but I wasn’t using them myself.”
“I was telling my students that it’s OK to fail and giving them tools to rebound from their disappointments or failures, but I wasn’t using them myself.”
~Lyquisha Ballard, INCubatoredu Teacher
After a while, Lyquisha and her students gained confidence in the classroom. After a year of teaching INCubatoredu, and then attending the professional development conference, the Uncharted Learning National Summit, she says, “I felt more prepared to go into the curriculum and the new school year knowing there would be moments where I just wasn’t going to get it—and I’m not the only person who won’t get it—but my toolbox is full of so much knowledge and content.”
“Everything that I was passionate about in my first couple of years teaching… those doors and feelings started opening back up for me,” she says. From feeling apathetic about work to feeling excited, energized and passionate about her career once again, Lyquisha says, “I get to class in the morning, and I cannot wait to see how I will be challenged again as a teacher.”
“Everything that I was passionate about in my first couple of years teaching… those doors and feelings started opening back up for me."
~ Lyquisha Ballard, INCubatoredu Teacher
If You Want Something, Ask For It.
Nicole Franczvai is a first-time entrepreneurship teacher at Lewisville High School, Lewisville ISD. From teaching art to embracing a new entrepreneur curriculum, she reflects on what the experience has taught both her and her students. “They have the opportunity to create a viable business—a real-world business speaking to real-world people,” she says. “Those connections are really powerful. You don’t get those opportunities anywhere else in school.” And she should know.
After years of working in the district as an art teacher, Nicole brings a unique set of skills and experiences to her entrepreneurship classroom. Entrepreneurship was something new she had to learn alongside her students, but she quickly noticed the parallels between entrepreneurship and art. “Teaching kids to look, find and process different ideas aligns with art,” she shares. Although she’s only been teaching INCubatoredu for a year, Nicole has already made an impact on her students. She believes in practicing what you teach, so she did just that.
“In entrepreneurship, one of the main things I teach is to ask and ask over and over again,” Nicole says. “I wanted to prove it to my students, so I emailed Mark Cuban and asked him to visit the class.” It’s common for community members, entrepreneurs and business leaders to volunteer in and visit INCubatoredu classrooms, but getting a real Shark from Shark Tank—something INCubatoredu and its yearly National Pitch Contest are frequently compared to—took a little more work on Nicole’s end. Her perseverance paid off when Cuban agreed and stopped by.
“One of the main things I teach is to ask and ask, over and over again. I wanted to prove it to my students, so I emailed and asked Mark Cuban to visit the class.”
~ Nicole Franczvai, INCubatoredu Teacher, Lewisville High School
“He visited the classroom not as a celebrity, but as an entrepreneur,” says Nicole. “There’s a beauty in people coming in and speaking about their successes and also about their failures. Those connections—the ability to shake a hand, look somebody in the eye—are really helpful.”
In It Together.
Chances are, you’ve found yourself in a place you never thought you’d be in before. Maybe it’s your job, a relationship, or the town you live in. Life is unpredictable, but it’s the practices and mindset of an entrepreneur that can prepare you to face whatever might come your way.
With the tools they gain from early entrepreneurship education, students become prepared to participate (and thrive) in an innovative workforce—to hold (or better yet, create) jobs that don’t yet exist.
Whether from volunteer community members or well-known entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban, INCubatoredu students get the chance to learn from failure, build a business and grow their confidence. And lucky for them, the teachers gain just as much.