Susan Mathewson was destined to teach. For her tenth birthday her parents gave her a blackboard, which Susan would prop in her yard along with rows of little desks for the neighborhood kids.
"It was in the cards. It took me a while to get there, but I was always going to be a teacher."
Mathewson studied Athletic Administration at St. John's University and subsequently landed at Merrill Lynch. She became a financial advisor and later managed all the financial advisors in the South Florida district. It wasn't until fifteen years later that she retired to pursue her first love: teaching.
Bayside High School, an alternative high school on Florida's Gulf coast, is the last stop for students who are habitually truant or who have come dangerously close to failing out of traditional schools. Bayside students don't have a yearbook or a prom or even a traditional athletics program. What they do have is a faculty fully committed to helping them get back on track academically and leave Bayside with a degree and the knowledge and skills that will give them a leg up in the workforce.
That's where Susan Mathewson comes in. Her business classes are electives at Bayside, and students flock to them. It's no wonder. Mathewson teaches her students valuable real world skills like writing a check, getting car insurance, and most importantly, landing a job.
Mathewson uses the Practical Money Skills for Life curriculum to teach students about credit cards, debit cards, and budgeting. She says her favorite tool is the "Rule of 72," a method for measuring the growth of an investment. Her students also learn to calculate overtime pay and evaluate a job offer based upon the possible inclusion of a matching 401K plan or stock options.
While all of her students learn essential business and financial skills, the class that Mathewson is perhaps most proud of is one she implemented last year which derives its curriculum from a Florida Department of Education program called "Ready to Work."
The courseware, which focuses on applied math, reading for information, and locating information, was created with the goal of developing a more proficient vocational workforce. The class is rigorous and assessed online by ACT, the educational testing organization, and upon its completion a student earns not only academic credit but also a credential recognized by Florida employers as an indicator of achievement and proficiency.
The Ready to Work certificate is just one of numerous assets the students take away from Susan Mathewson's classes. Her goal is to equip them with any tools she can to help them succeed in an interview.
"The beauty of the classes I get to teach is that there's nothing nebulous about what they're learning. It's all reality-based. My kids can see the value in this, because this is real life."