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Educator Spotlight: Meet Mandi Bolinger

Mandi Bolinger is a YE teacher in an alternative high school in Mesa, Ariz. She’s taught YE for two years and economics for 10. “YE is worth taking the risk on. Whether you’re an administrator or a teacher who feels like it isn’t in your wheelhouse — it is! YE provides amazing resources, staff and teachers to contact. It’s really limitless and worth the risk of diving right in.” Meet Mandi.

Her YE connection:

When YE staff member Kylie Stupka came to Mandi’s school and pitched YE to the principals, she summed up her invitation with, “Give us your best teachers and we’ll provide everything else.” Mandi’s principal invited her to become a YE teacher, encouraging her that she would shine in the role. Mandi was the inaugural YE teacher at her school. 

What she loves most about YE:

“It’s the students and the interaction they get in my classroom,” Mandi says. “It’s amazing to watch them grow and learn something meaningful for the rest of their life, whether that is the content of YE or soft skills like shaking hands or not being crippled from speaking in public.” Mandi describes that other teachers in her school often let her know that students who used to never speak in class are now participating thanks to their time in YE, so it not only benefits the students but it helps out the teachers, as well.

Her experience with YEedu (teacher training conference): 

Mandi loved YEedu because of how hands-on it was. She describes the experience as teaching teachers in the same way they will teach the students. The teachers experience the YE classroom as students, which helps the skills and lessons to really set in. She’s also made connections with teachers around the country who she can communicate with and share resources. “I feel comfortable enough to text other teachers for moral support or help. We’re a YE family. We’re not just Arizona teachers and Kansas teachers. I think the YE staff is really good at wanting to see different perspectives from new teachers.” 

Her YE mindset shift moment:

Mandi’s YE mindset shift moments are related directly to those of her students. “The kids have those moments where they see that the knowledge they have is useful. They can grow. Their “a-ha” moments come when they realize they have something to say, they have ideas that are attainable.” When students have those moments, Mandi realizes herself that she has the tools to guide them in having those realizations, and that’s a powerful perspective change for her, too.

On entrepreneurship:

For Mandi, so much of what she teaches about entrepreneurship is simply about caring. She uses the Business Model Canvas (BMC) by Strategyzer to help students understand what it means to create value. “If it’s not authentic, it’s not your idea, and you’re not passionate about it, then it’s not ever going to be successful,” Mandi says. “For example, in the Big Idea business pitch competition, if it’s not something you care about, it’s going to show.” Many of her students come to class thinking they’re not interested in business, but when she gets them to start solving problems or filling gaps in the market, suddenly they see the value. That leads to greater caring, which leads to greater success.

On the Foundational Values:

“I’ve seen that students can successfully apply these principles in their life,” Mandi says. “Whether it’s a business they want to start or working for a company, simply by carrying on those foundational values and living them out, they will be employable, be able to start a business, interact with the community, and interact with their families better. I had a student say they can interact with their mom better now. I didn’t realize how much ‘being principled’ mattered until seeing these students apply it in real life.”

In her YE classroom:

“I try to keep my classroom fun, active and focused on the students. I try to get them out of their seats. I want the kids, who are vastly diverse, to make a network. I’m constantly trying to get the kids to talk less to me and talk more to each other. I tell them their ideas are the best ones, so they should look to each other for help. I want to stimulate the discussion, not be the discussion.” 

Meet more inspiring educators on the blog.