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BizWorld awards Wendy Tibbs for promoting entrepreneurship in classroom

MADISON – Wendy Tibbs, Gifted Specialist at Midtown Elementary School, has received the “BizWorld Educator of the Year Award” for instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in students to become architects of their own futures.

A venture capitalist created BizWorld.org, a nonprofit organization, so his daughter in elementary school could understand his profession and how America’s capitalist economy works. The organization provides a complete curriculum for elementary and middle school students but also offers mentoring for young entrepreneurs in high school and college.

Tibbs has used the curriculum for about 20 years.

“My sweet gifted-teacher friend, Elizabeth Bero, nominated me last year without my knowledge. I was quite surprised to receive an email this fall about the award,” Tibbs said. “The organization flew my husband, Joey, and myself to California to attend their 17th annual RiskMasters Luncheon in the San Francisco area.”

The event gathered many entrepreneurs including BizWorld’s creator, Tim Draper. Guest speaker was Marco Zappacosta, co-founder/CEO of Thumbtack.

To instill an entrepreneurial spirit in students, Tibbs uses “BizWorld’s wonderful framework for getting kids excited about being entrepreneurs. The series of lessons is a simulated economy, complete with ‘BizBucks’ and stock certificates. Students pay rent, apply for jobs and invest in their own company.”

After students incorporate their companies, they develop a ‘pitch’ for a venture capitalist who buys their stock to infuse cash into their business. “Students use that investment to design products, purchase raw materials and go into production,” Tibbs said.

Next, students learn about marketing and pricing their finished wares. “The unit wraps up with a sale of their creations, again using BizBucks, and figuring out if each company netted a profit or ended with a loss,” Tibbs said. BizWorld’s online interfaces enhance the process with the company ledger and students’ video-editing tools to create fun commercials.

In introduction to entrepreneur concepts, some of Tibbs’ students immediately are excited, while others are concerned about the scope of running a business. BizWorld offers online pre- and post-tests. Students are very nervous during a profit-loss equation during the pretest and explaining the work of venture capitalist.

At the unit’s start, average score per student is around 10 to 15 points. By the unit’s end, those students rate an average score in the upper 80s. “Huge gains on paper but even better are understandings and work habits that students take away in self-esteem, problem-solving and initiative,” Tibbs said.

One of Tibbs’ first BizWorld classes sought funding from their school principal and opened a school supply store at West Madison Elementary School. This store generated hundreds of dollars to help fund field trips for students.

“Over the years, I’ve invited community guests to be our ‘Venture Capitalists,’ including business owner Scott Harbour, who was parent of two of my students at that time,” Tibbs said. “Students have heard about actual entrepreneurial ventures from community leaders.”

Six years ago, Tibbs’ class entered a “Social Impact Challenge” for further BizWorld experiences. Several students created small businesses as fundraisers for local charity. Tibbs’ students created dog toys, walked dogs, mowed lawns, taught origami and materialized other ideas.

Tibbs has taught elementary students in Springfield, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Louisville, Ky. After briefly teaching third-graders at West Madison Elementary School, she has worked as Gifted Specialist at West Madison (now Midtown) since 1995.

For 10 years, she sponsored a LegoRobotics team, along with coaching Destination Imagination and chess teams. She sponsored Bob Jones Boys’ Soccer Team when her son played.

A product of Metairie, La., Tibbs now considers Madison home, after living here since 1993. Now a National Board Certified Educator, she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Arkansas State University and a master’s degree in gifted education from University of Alabama.

Wendy and Joey Tibbs (who is now retired) have been married 43 years. Oldest son Geof is an orthotist and lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. with wife Jessy and their 14-months-old twin boys. Son Doug of Huntsville works as chief zymurgist at Chandlers-Ford Brewing; wife Paige is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner. Youngest son Connor of Huntsville is chief distiller at Yellow Hammer Brewing.

Thanks to Joey’s career, the Tibbs have traveled to Switzerland; France; Italy; Cancun, Mexico; Jamaica; Las Vegas, Nev.; and San Diego and San Francisco, Calif. “Really nice to finally be able to take him on a ‘work-related’ trip from MY job,” she said.

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