Cook’s college, professional experience leads to teaching

MHS students in Amanda Cook’s entrepreneur class, Tyler Luensman and Devin Kraus, work on their individual business canvas models. Each student created a business and is researching to see how successful that business would be. Cook teaches business and social studies classes at the high school, and is the BPA advisor. She’s been with the district for three years. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Panther Professionals
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Panther Professionals is a weekly series highlighting educators, administrators, staff and aides who are dedicated to the future of the Monticello Community School District.

     Monticello High School business teacher Amanda Cook has a lot on her plate. In her third year with the school district, Cook not only teaches a wide variety of business and marketing classes, but is the BPA (Business Professionals of America) advisor, which includes empowering students to further their interests in the business world.

     “I always wanted to teach at the high school level,” shared Cook. “I’ve found I really like working with students.”

     After being a member of BPA herself in high school, it only seemed natural to pass her experience on to students today.

     MHS BPA has around 40 members in grades 9-12. Four of its members and Cook will travel to Dallas, Texas, May 9-13 for the BPA National Leadership Conference.

     Cook started down her future path by attending Drake University and earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

     “I actually started college pursuing medical biology and research,” she admitted. “But when I got into the business and marketing aspect, I switched gears.”

     She then sought her teaching certificate from Coe College, with social studies endorsements from Kirkwood Community College. She also received her MOC (multi-occupations certification) endorsement from the University of Northern Iowa.

     “I always liked social studies and history,” Cook said. “That’s what interests me.”

     Before thinking of teaching, Cook worked for a non-profit at Kirkwood, CCID (Community Colleges for International Development). The role allowed her to work with hundreds of community colleges throughout the United States and the world.

     “It brought a lot of international students to community colleges in the U.S.,” explained Cook. “They come here to learn a trade, gain some education, and return home to hopefully start their own companies or businesses.”

     Cook said it was that experience with college students that gave her the itch to become an educator.

     “I still keep in touch with some of the students on Facebook,” she said of following their progress years later.

     Her first teaching job was as a long-term substitute teacher for the middle school in Anamosa. When a job opening popped up with the MCSD, Cook applied.

     Cook teaches three history classes, marketing, accounting, financial literacy, and an entrepreneur class.

     “We follow the University of Iowa curriculum,” she said of the entrepreneur class. After students complete the class, they take a test and earn UI college credit.

     Last year Cook had 25 students in the class; this year she’s at 15.

     “The students work up to forming their own business and pitching it at the end. They gain knowledge in financing and putting together their own business plan.” As part of the class, Cook said her students head out into the Monticello community to interview business owners and write a paper. Cook said they are always looking for more businesses to take part.

     In Cook’s marketing class, the kids took on a district wide project and put together a video showcasing all of the school district buildings/facilities. The students divided into teams and explored and toured each building to explain the needs and inefficiencies.

     “The middle school is our longest video because of the time it took to go through the building and the issues the students saw,” explained Cook.

     She certainly isn’t afraid to take on more.

     She also instructs the Kirkwood Community College course Introduction to Computers, which is taught at MHS.

     “It’s nice because we get some younger students into the class to dabble in a college course before they take classes at JREC,” said Cook.

     The class is offered free to the kids. The certification is a $400 investment thanks for the school. After students pass, they become certified in Microsoft Office, which helps when heading out into the professional world.

     Of her teaching style, Cook said she tries to make her classes fun and interesting at the same time. “I want the students be active versus being taught to. I always like seeing when my students have that light bulb moment.”

     While she’s living in Marion, Cook said there’s something to be said for the MCSD.

     “We have such a good community, good parents, and good kids,” she said. “There is a lot of support here between the teachers and staff, which is vital for a healthy school.”

     Cook said she’s seen the support firsthand when fundraising and seeking donations for BPA.

     “We always get such a great response from the local businesses, which is nice to see.”

     Cook stays busy at home with her 7-year-old daughter Ari and 5-year-old son Jamie. The family likes to spend time outdoors.



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