Graduate named 2016 ACTE Teacher of the Year
Cindy Quinlan, a teacher and work-based learning coordinator at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., and a graduate of the University of Georgia College of Education, was recently named the 2016 ACTE Teacher of the Year by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).
ACTE is the nation's largest nonprofit association committed to the advancement of technical education. The association's Teacher of the Year award recognizes middle and secondary school teachers who have demonstrated innovation in the classroom, commitment to their students and dedication to the improvement of technical education in their institutions and communities.
"Teaching is a very hard profession and many days you often do not get an immediate 'thank you' for your dedication," said Quinlan. "The fact that I was recognized by my peers for a job well done absolutely means the world to me. It confirms that I am on the right track and motivates me to do more for my students."
Quinlan, who currently teaches marketing and entrepreneurship, was one of five finalists considered for the national title. She pioneered a start-up approach for her entrepreneurship class where students learn skills to ensure their employability in an uncertain economy.
"I show students how to create their own earning opportunity in the entrepreneurial spirit of self-employment," she said. "With entrepreneurial skills, students will always be able to create their own job now and in the future."
According to Quinlan, the impact of the Brookwood Entrepreneurship Program goes beyond sheer profits. "It has lasting effects on the students both emotionally and monetarily. One of the constant lessons taught through the program is social entrepreneurship, more specifically, that as an entrepreneur, you must find a way to give back to society."
Many of her students' startups have donated a portion of their profits to charitable organizations. Students who continue to operate their business after leaving high school have used their profits to help with college expenses.
After three years of success, the program now offers students an opportunity to earn their language arts course credit through Quinlan's entrepreneurship class. Students develop all of the skills they would in a standard language arts class, but in a nontraditional, project-based learning environment. These skills include critical thinking and reading, communicative arts and research techniques relevant to all entrepreneurs in the business world.
Quinlan is also a volunteer instructor for Real LEDGE, a nonprofit organization that facilitates entrepreneurship awareness and experiential education training for teachers and community leaders. Last March, Quinlan traveled to Honduras with a team of K-12 and post-secondary educators to teach Honduran public and private school educators how to encourage economic development through entrepreneurship education.
"What's important is that your students walk away as better people because they were in your class," said Quinlan. "They should be able to carry the lessons learned in your classroom with them for the rest of their life…and even pass their knowledge on to others."
In 2002, Quinlan graduated from the Terry College of Business with a bachelor's degree in management information systems and marketing. In 2003, she received her master's degree in occupational studies from the College of Education, and in 2009, she obtained her educational specialist degree in workforce education from the College.