CCA teacher gives students a head start in entrepreneurship

CCA's business electives teach students real-world skills.

When today’s young students think of entrepreneurs, they probably picture Wall Street and technology giants.

However, Commonwealth Charter Academy business teacher Lisa Malsberger motivates them to see someone else — themselves — in entrepreneurial shoes. In her business electives, Malsberger's students learn how they can become entrepreneurs.

One student hopes to take over his grandfather’s auto shop someday. Another is selling her drawings to stock-art websites.

“They’re learning they can take their passion and turn it into a business,” said Malsberger, who teaches in the Northeast region.

Malsberger’s entrepreneurship course is one of many business classes and other electives that CCA students can access. The full menu of electives allows exploration of a broad range of career options. Some students are taking first steps on the careers suited to their interests and talents. Others might find that a certain field isn’t what they expected long before wasting thousands of dollars on college courses or post-secondary training.

One of Malsberger’s students discovered that criminal justice wasn’t what he expected, but he loved his web design course so much that he changed career paths.

“We offer a lot of great business and technology courses,” Malsberger said. “They’re pretty advanced, too. Students can try Java computer programming or game design. Our administrative duties and office management course prepares learners for all sorts of opportunities in health care. Maybe they’ll take a class and say, ‘This is something I want to do.’ ”

Malsberger is an experienced businesswoman who brings real-world knowledge to her lessons. Before becoming a teacher, she worked in a bank for five years. Even today, she operates an online shop on Etsy and travels across Pennsylvania selling items she handcrafts from vintage maps.

“My students and I talk about supply and demand because I wholesale my items, too,” she said. “I talk about the wholesale price compared to the retail price and then how we come up with that price. We discuss what the consumer’s going to pay and why they won’t pay a higher price. It’s an excellent example of real-world business.”

CCA’s entrepreneurship course even gives students an annual “make it and market” exercise. They take a morning to create a product or service and receive the tools to promote it. In the afternoon, invited family, friends, teachers and Facebook Live viewers vote on the best product.

“We’re doing things to make it more interesting,” Malsberger said. “They’re getting real-time reactions to their creations and learning effective marketing techniques.”

Courses are structured to expose students to modern workplace expectations. CCA students work independently, but they also engage in the kind of teamwork that future employers will demand. In one lesson, Malsberger’s students gathered in groups to scrutinize the methods of famous entrepreneurs from inventor Thomas Edison to McDonald’s innovator Ray Kroc. When they returned to the lesson, the groups selected classmates as spokespeople to present their findings.

“I was really proud of the students who decided to speak,” Malsberger said. “They spoke with confidence, and they were interested in what they were talking about. These young people are learning to present themselves to the world and to take positive steps toward fulfilling careers.”