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Bibb Teacher of the Year brings business experience to classroom

Students in Katie Wall’s second-block marketing principles class at Westside High School didn’t spend their time with their noses in textbooks as they reviewed concepts such as labor, distribution and demographics.

Instead, students spent part of the class listening to presentations from their classmates. As a group of students explained five principles that businesses should consider when selling their products to potential customers, Wall, who two weeks ago was named Bibb County’s Teacher of the Year, asked students how those ideas could be applied to the school’s store.

Keeping the school’s store -- which was started by Wall and is staffed by students -- open during lunch hours when students have more free time to shop illustrates the idea of time utility. Meanwhile, providing shoppers with descriptions of the store’s items shows the concept of information utility in action, Wall said.

“There’s that real-world connection,” she said. “You see it every day.”

Earlier in the class, students gathered in the hallway for an activity that involved students quizzing each other on class vocabulary words. The class divided into teams of boys and girls. When a member of one student team read a definition, someone from the other team had a chance to respond.

Taylor Babbs, a junior, said the activity kept her on her toes, wanting to show the boys that the girls knew the right answers. Babbs said she likes Wall’s class because Wall knows how to keep her students engaged.

“She’s very hands-on,” she said. “She’s not a teacher that sits in front of class and talks. She’s very interactive.”

Wall said she was overwhelmed when she was named Teacher of the Year at a Nov. 8 ceremony at the Anderson Conference Center at Goodwill. She is now eligible to compete for Georgia Teacher of the Year.

“Sometimes you feel like what you’re doing goes unnoticed or that you’re so focused on the students, but it’s nice when your colleagues and the community recognizes what you’re doing,” she said.

Wall, a Tattnall Square Academy alumna, did not take a direct path to becoming a teacher.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Georgia Southern University in 2005, Wall worked at Atlantic Southern Bank nearly four years.

Wall’s life took a turn in 2009 when she visited a friend’s classroom at Westside High. While Wall had considered going into the education field before, that experience motivated her to jump right in.

“It was one of those ‘wow’ moments,” she said.

Over the few months, she was accepted in the Georgia Teacher Alternative Preparation Program, which prepares those with degrees in fields other than education to become teachers. She began teaching at Westside that fall.

For her, one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is watching her students, no matter their abilities, move to the next level of learning.

Wall said she applies her business perspective to the classroom. She describes her own classroom like a business, where she is the manager and her students are employees.

At the beginning of every year, Wall sets high student expectations but also lets them know she cares about their success.

“They respect me, because I respect them, and I learned that early on,” Wall said. “It’s all about respect.”

Besides teaching marketing courses, Wall also mentors new teachers and serves as the chairwoman of Westside’s career, technical and agricultural education department, as well as its work-based learning program.

She also serves as the school’s chapter of DECA, an organization for students interested in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. In the past four years, the group has grown from about 20 to 100 students. Wall credits the growth to her taking students to conferences and engaging them in community service projects.

“They just want to be a part of something, and I recognized that need early on,” she said. “Give them something positive to be involved in -- they’ll join and they’ll step up.”

Most of all, she wants her students to be successful once they leave her classroom.

“If nothing else, they’re going to learn to market themselves to get into colleges, to get jobs, how to be successful and productive citizens, whether it’s in the school or in the community or on their job,” she said. “That is my job ... to make sure they give back to the community what we’re giving to them.”

Westside Principal Julia Daniely said Wall is an asset at a school like Westside, considered one of the lowest-performing in the state.

“Those are the types of teachers you need to turn schools like Westside around,” Daniely said.


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