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Conference encourages teachers to develop entrepreneurial mindset

by Halle Ramsey
Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program

Collin Swedberg, an agricultural educator at North Platte High School, was among the attendees of the inaugural Guide Conference hosted by the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program.

Who decided that rows were the best way to organize a classroom? Or that learning can’t be loud and messy? Not an entrepreneur.

The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln hosted its inaugural Guide Conference on July 7 and 8, which equipped Nebraska educators to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.



Brennan Costello, Engler’s chief business relations officer, and Ann Dvorak, a program specialist for the World Wildlife Fund and former high school agriculture education teacher, designed the conference to help teachers challenge assumptions of traditional classroom education and create employers instead of employees.

“Educators are in the business of nurturing young humans, guiding them to uncover their purposes in life,” Dvorak said. “The Guide Conference was created to foster the entrepreneurial mindset within educators — to encourage them to test their curiosity about assumptions and view obstacles and failures as points of growth.”



Throughout the two-day workshop, 17 high school teachers from across the state broke the confines of traditional classroom management by repeatedly asking arguably the most entrepreneurial question of all: Why not?

“The most important part of guide was it taught me how to recognize my assumptions about teaching and the importance of testing those assumptions to be more innovative in the classroom,” said Kate Grimes, an agriculture education teacher at Axtell Community School.

Teachers identified alternatives to conventional lecture-style teaching, such as the Socratic seminar, a student-led discussion method focused on asking open-ended questions that allow for a variety of opinions to be shared on complex issues.

Participants also engaged with an administration panel to learn how to collaborate effectively with principals, superintendents and community members. Educators strategized how to implement teaching methods that inspire students to confidently design learning projects and assess the quality of their work.

“I am excited to incorporate project days and self-assessment to allow students in my classroom to explore the topics that interest them most and encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning,” Swedberg said.

According to the Nebraska Department of Education, there are more than 320,000 students within the Nebraska public school system. Providing teachers with resources that encourage entrepreneurship is essential to fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in the state’s next generation of business leaders.

“Teachers play a central role in the growth of young people,” Costello said. “The Guide Conference is strategically built to help more teachers think entrepreneurially in the classroom.”

To learn about opportunities to invest in aspiring entrepreneurs or connect local schools to the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, email Costello at bcostello3@unl.edu.


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