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Staff Spotlight: Meet Michael Green

Michael Green began his career in corporate America, but never felt fulfilled. “I’d always had a passion for teaching, but I was in denial about it because I would make more money in the corporate world than in education. But I gave teaching a shot, and I loved it.” Today, he’s been teaching for 13 years, and this is his fifth year teaching Youth Entrepreneurs at Cross Keys High School near Atlanta, Ga. “YE is the perfect marriage of my passions. I love business, and I love teaching. In YE, I can put these together in a fun, interactive way. I’m hardwired to teach this kind of program!” Meet Mr. Green.

Day in the life as a YE teacher: “My lessons are always centered on two things: first, the particular unit that we’re in, like marketing, finance or economics,” Mr. Green says, “and second, tying into one of the eight YE Foundational Values.” Every week, the students learn in several ways — hands-on, lecture and interactive. The week starts with an interactive game or activity, “something to pique their interest and introduce them to what we’re learning, all wrapped up in fun.”

Business plan connections: “The students have a living, breathing business plan that they are always working on, so we take what we’ve learned each week and address that portion of the business plan,” Mr. Green explains. In the marketing unit, for example, students address advertising and marketing needs for their business. Then, students present to each other. “They’re constantly getting used to presenting, speaking in front of their peers and speaking in front of the class. The goal at the end of the semester is for them to be so comfortable and so intertwined with their own business that they could explain it in their sleep to anybody.”

His own entrepreneurial journey: “A couple of years ago, I caught the entrepreneurial bug from seeing my own YE students succeed, develop and start their own businesses,” Mr. Green says. Since he’d always been interested in real estate, he spent one summer earning his real estate license and today, he owns the real estate development company MG Property Solutions. “I share my own successes and failures with my students!”

His most memorable mindset shift moment: Mr. Green recalls a student from his first year teaching YE. “She was extremely shy. In her first public speaking assignment, she froze, choosing the incomplete grade instead of finishing the speech. “Fast forward to the end of the class, she found a business idea she was passionate about and made a total turnaround with her confidence and ability to speak. She won our school-wide competition and took second in our regional competition.” The student, along with her father and Mr. Green, was invited to another event in New York City. “It was incredible to see this shy girl come all the way to New York, taking a leadership role in workshops and activities! To see her be a leader on that stage, what a tremendous jump. That was when it became real. That’s when I realized this program is changing lives.”

How Mr. Green defines entrepreneurship for his students: He starts with a thought-provoking question — can you ever see yourself feeling tired of answering to a boss? “I tell them, I’m going to teach you how to make money on your own and you don’t have to rely on a boss to tell you how to do it. Of course, being an entrepreneur is risky. Half of businesses don’t succeed. But that’s what makes it rewarding on the other side. I tell my students to fail fast if they have to, while they have a trampoline under themselves and a support system in school to catch you. If you love entrepreneurship, you’ve discovered it. If you don’t love it, at least you tried it.”

YE equips students to overcome obstacles. A great obstacle Mr. Green has overcome: Mr. Green and his wife struggled for many years to have children. “We finally did, and two years after having our first, we had a set of twins. Having three small children, all three or younger, I’ve had to work hard to overcome that obstacle and stay afloat, still giving it my all in my profession. I think that some of the concepts I taught the kids came back to help me out in that situation — staying focused, breaking down huge, insurmountable projects into smaller action steps, just working hard to get it all done.”

If his students remember just one lesson from YE, it’s this: “Lots of folks don’t love what they do every day. I tell my students that they spend so much time and energy in school, that they deserve to love what they do every day. You didn’t come this far to not love what you do.

I found that out from my personal experience of jumping from job to job and today, I’m in my dream job. What would you do every day if there were no bills to pay? Make that into your business or your career.”