Giving Students the Business: Candace Opalewski

(CLARE) – All her life, in college or career, Candace Opalewski has leaned on her proficiency for relationship-building to carry the day. Now that she’s teaching Business Management, she’ll put it to work not only to reach her high school students, but to help them connect with the world.

When the Clare-Gladwin Career & Technical Education program decided to implement its new Business Management class this fall, Opalewski’s potent mix of training and experience made her the perfect person to serve as instructor. Her enthusiasm for the nuts and bolts of the learning process sets her apart.

“My background is all across the board,” she said. “But the common thread is I enjoy learning and exploring. Teaching communications, leadership, management to our students…that’s exciting for me. I took a business management class in high school and really enjoyed it, and it’s my goal to create a fun learning environment for our CTE students, just as my teacher did for me.”

Opalewski holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education (with an emphasis in Business Education and Special Education), and a master’s degree in administration; she earned both at Central Michigan University. Career stops include student teaching, mentoring in the Clare-Gladwin Middle College program and overseeing 13 school districts as the coordinator of the McKinney-Vento program, which targets and assists local high-risk students who are either homeless or dangerously close to it.

“Throughout all these experiences, I still love business, working with people and how the world works,” she said. “I needed to do some exploring before finding my place in the business world, and it turns out business education found me. An important message I share with students is: During times of adversity, how do you persevere? You don’t quit on yourself. That’s how.”

Opalewski said a business management program was sorely needed for high school students, as only Beaverton and Clare currently offer business as part of their local curriculum. Her program is like every other CTE class in the sense that it fills an otherwise unmet need for local kids, and that regardless of their plans after high school, it can help.

“What appeals to me about teaching this class is that business is about the way the world works, and students can apply the skills they learn in any field,” she said. “In less than two years, these students will head out into either the working world, college or both, and holding a solid understanding of how businesses operate can be a huge competitive advantage.”

Opalewski spent the weeks leading up to opening day organizing, preparing and planning. She knew there would be challenges to come (“many students in general have issues facing them that have nothing to do with academics, like anxiety, or depression”), but she’s confident she’ll be able to connect with students, and teach them to connect with the business world.

“My students will enjoy the variety of teaching,” she said. “As a learner myself, I am auditory, visual and kinesthetic. As a teacher, I enjoy lecturing a little, showing the students examples and providing hands-on learning. I expect students will probably enjoy the hands-on material and being student-led. It keeps the class session moving along and before you know it the session is over.”