Meet Our Feature Teacher Of The Month – Ms. Lydia Stutesman Schiff

When you ask Career Education Teacher Lydia Stutesman what she is passionate about, the answer is simple, “family, travel, and entrepreneurship” namely, her obsession with Shark Tank and sharing the love of business with her students.

Stutesman, a native Floridian, didn’t originally intend to be a teacher, but later discovered it was in her genes and is now working in the field where she was meant to be all along. Growing up in Plantation, Florida, Stutesman attended Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, Broward College and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. “I always wanted to work in radio,” says Stutesman. I loved being in the spotlight and I used to do the traffic reports.”

Read her full bio below!

Before you find out EVERYTHING about Ms. Stutesman, who would you like to see as Feature Teacher for next month?  The nomination form is at the end of this blog!
How long have you been a teacher, Ms. Stutesman? 4 years
Where do you teach right now and what subject? Franklin Academy Cooper City, Career and Education Planning, we are an IB World School
What other schools and districts have you worked for? I was a teaching assistant at University School and a substitute teacher for Broward County Schools, I also started out as a sub in my current school, Franklin Academy.
What would the students be surprised to find out about you? That I love to sing, and I am obsessed with reality TV.

How do you spend your summer breaks? I vacation in Cocoa Beach every summer to carry on a family tradition and I love to travel anywhere else I can.

What are your favorite books or movies?  When I have the time to read, it must be inspirational or of an entrepreneurial nature.  “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” is the book I recommend for my students and right now, I am reading “Rise and Grind” by Shark Tank entrepreneur Daymond John.
If you won the lottery and decided to give up teaching, what would you do instead? This is the best question!  If I won the lottery and could do whatever I wanted, I would co-host a radio morning show, become a travel blogger, or open a bridal salon because I love the wedding industry!  I also have a children’s clothing line that I want to develop and there is nothing like it on the market, so I would go for it and get that up and running!

What are some traditions you have for the First Day of School? I always take a picture of my kids, and at school, I play music in my classroom as I greet my students for the first time.
What makes a ‘good day’ at school? Every day is a good day because my class hashtag this year is #onlypositivevibes but every day that we are safe is a good day and when we watch Shark Tank on Fridays those are the best days!

How do you show your school spirit? I wear school t-shirts and tend to bounce around the hallways with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.  I also love to reward good behavior with treats like donuts and jolly ranchers.
What accomplishment fills you with pride so far this year? I completed my Masters Degree during the last school year so being able to tell my students about that journey makes me very proud. This year, how I decorated my classroom makes me very happy “In the Game of Life, You Choose Your Path” and the kids are so well behaved I am very impressed and so lucky!

Do you eat in the teachers lounge or in the cafeteria with the kids? I usually stay in my classroom to eat, but I love to visit the kids during lunch sometimes.  It makes me smile when they see me and are excited to acknowledge me.
How do you keep things fresh? I get bored very easily, so I am constantly trying to come up with new ways to engage the kids.  I use music a lot in my classroom and I steal anything fun that I find another teacher doing.  If it works, we must share and use it also!  We watch videos and have discussions or read articles from business magazines, and talk about current events so they are interested and it is relevant yet meaningful to them as well.  We have a great time discussing the shark tank and I created an online portfolio challenge that the kids go absolutely nuts over.  They love competing with each other, so I try to engage the spirit of competition as much as possible!
What inspires you? The entrepreneurs on Shark Tank-specifically Daymond John.  I always think it should be me on the show, and I am inspired to develop my product ideas too!  My family inspires me to better myself and to always be the best provider possible.  Successful people who are truly living their dream and working in fields they love also inspire me!

How does technology make teaching more simple or difficult? Technology is a blessing so we can use meaningful media to engage the students and supplement our curriculum; however, the writing skills are lacking because of the texting, abbreviating and shorter posts.  Technology has not been so great for grammar.  Technology has also hindered the students’ ability to problem solve and work out problems because you can search up answers so quickly.  On the flip side, you tube math tutor videos can make life so much easier when you get stuck!
Are there any embarrassing teaching moments? Sometimes, later in the day when I am tired, a student will say something funny and it will trigger the giggles and I have laughed uncontrollably and even turned almost purple a couple times.  The kids think it is just the most hysterical thing ever which makes us laugh more!  Nothing too embarrassing at this point thank goodness.
What’s the best/worst thing about being a teacher? The best thing about being a teacher is the schedule.  It is a great career when you have school-aged children.  The worst thing about being a teacher is the salary.  The cost of the college education required compared to the salary it pays just doesn’t match up and it’s unfortunate.  NFL water people make more than a teacher’s base salary and I don’t think you have to go to college for that.  There is definitely an imbalance and funding for public education must be increased to attract people to this career.  It should be an elite occupation that people strive to achieve and be well-respected.  We are teaching the most amazing kids and the future of our country!

If you could teach another subject, what would it be and why? If I could teach another subject it would be Math because I absolutely love being able to simplify concepts for the kids and teach them tips and tricks.  It is so great to see when the light bulb goes on and things click for them.  The other subject I would teach would be journalism because I love to write and I am obsessed with radio and television broadcasting.
How do you make connections with students? I learn their names and try to build a personal rapport as quickly as possible.  When I overhear them talking about personal things then I can say, “hey how is it going, or I am so sorry to hear your grandma passed, I know you were out of school, do you need anything?”  I think they appreciate the connection.  They will not respect or trust me unless they feel I am being sincere.
How do you remember all of your students’ names?  I take attendance every day until I have memorized every face and then personally pass out materials with their name on them and say their name when I do it.  It really helps!  I do the same for tests and quizzes.  I go out of my way to say, “nice job, Michael, or good morning John.”  I focus on the ones I don’t know until I have them all!
If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them? To New York City!  We would tour all over Manhattan, see Broadway shows (to study careers in the arts and the business of production of course) and get to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.  It would be amazing! I was lucky enough to get to go on a school trip to Spain already and it was absolutely spectacular!

What kind of student were you? Well…I wasn’t the best student in high school, and I realized the value of finishing college much later on in life, but I now hold a Masters Degree in Secondary Education, and that is something I am really proud of!  I was way more interested in being the social butterfly than studying.  I am more emotionally intelligent than what you would call “book smart.”
Were you inspired by a certain teacher to become a teacher? No, but there have been great teachers along the way who I think of often now that I am in this role.  At STA it was Mr. Aloma and he was not only my Spanish teacher, but also an entrepreneur!
If you were to be given a superlative when you were in school, what would it have been?  Most likely to be on the radio or have their 15 minutes of fame.  I am still waiting for my 15 minutes…
How do you remember year ONE in your teaching career?  It was rough.  I was too nice and didn’t have the right classroom management procedures in place, so the kids walked all over me, but I absolutely loved what I was doing and I was determined to learn and get better at my craft!
How do you want your students will remember you and your class?  I believe my students will always remember me because I teach life skills.  The first time they see their paycheck tax deductions, I know they will be thinking of me!  How I want them to remember me is the person that always told them they can be whatever they want and that I believe in them.  I tell them they are amazing, and I mean it.  My wish is for all of my students to continue their education, work in a field they love and are passionate about, make as much money as they want to or need to, and enjoy their life and be happy.  And for goodness sakes if they become rich and famous one day to PLEASE come back and see me, and share their good fortune!  I always ask them please not to forget about me!  Go out there in the world, be kind and be a good person!  That means more to me than any A in the grade book.
Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by? Love the life you live, live the life you love.  The other saying is that like attracts like, and I am a huge believer in the law of attraction so I say affirmations daily!  I AM in perfect health, I AM happy, I AM wealthy, I AM are the two most powerful words.  I try to only attract good things into my life!

Lydia Stuteman Bio Continued…..
Stutesman married, started a family, moved to Port Saint Lucie, and spent nine years there working for a large healthcare company where she rose the corporate ladder and eventually into a management position.
Stutesman had always thought about finishing college, and when her employer offered a tuition reimbursement program and on-site classes, she knew it was the perfect time to continue her education. By 2012, Stutesman earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and relocated back to Broward County. In 2013, after being let go by an employer who was downsizing, Stutesman needed a change and decided to lose the long commutes, and aftercare schedules for her children, and gave substitute teaching a try.
“I couldn’t believe how much I loved working in the school environment,” Stutesman says. “It was so amazing to be on the same schedule as my children, and I enjoyed working with students in every grade. Each day was a different assignment and I never got bored!” It was then Stutesman knew she wanted to pursue her teaching certificate. The state of Florida does not require an education degree to become an educator, so Stutesman applied and was issued her letter of eligibility and eventually her temporary teaching certificate.
In 2015, Stutesman was offered a full time teaching position at Franklin Academy in Cooper City. Because the Department of Education does require that certain criteria is met, including taking education credits, Stutesman decided to go for the gusto and get her Masters Degree in Secondary Education, which she completed in November of 2017.
“I absolutely value and treasure all the experience I gained in my management positions in the corporate world, and I feel like I have so many skills that I would have never learned if I had gone immediately into teaching directly after college. Although teaching is a second career for me, it is undoubtedly where I belong,” Stutesman says.
Stutesman is lucky to work in an IB World School system that values a global perspective and offers a year-long class in Career Education. Stutesman describes her class as “A combination of economics, business principles, entrepreneurship, personal finance, self-awareness and career exploration. My students leave me having the knowledge of how to create and market a business, earn income and pay taxes, write a check and handle personal banking, how to play the stock market, and even write their first resume. These are important life skills they will take with them forever. I always joke with my students to please remember me when they become rich and famous; I am on a teacher’s salary after all!”
In her free time, Stutesman is still passionate about a few things including listening to the radio and going to as many concerts as possible! “I always tell my students about the days we used to have to wait for our favorite song to come on the radio and the anticipation of waiting for a video to play on MTV. I wouldn’t trade those days for all the technology in the world today. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was the best! Then I really freak my students out by telling them about my landline phone and the busy signal,” Stutesman says with a chuckle.
Although changing careers and becoming a teacher was a sacrifice for her family financially, Stutesman says she wouldn’t change a thing. In the summer and on school breaks Stutesman tries to travel as much as possible and even worked part time in the past for an airline as a second job so she could fly for free. These days, she is inspired by teaching her students about entrepreneurship and is developing her own product idea which she intends to eventually sell online and who knows, maybe even one day take it to the Shark Tank! “I’m obsessed with Shark Tank and I love using it as a teaching tool. The kids go crazy over it and we discuss it in class, and I hope one day they will see the episode when I get to pitch my idea to the sharks.” Stutesman also hopes that one day more schools will teach year long life skills programs, and is so thankful for the opportunity she has been given to make a difference. Her classroom theme this year is “In the Game of Life, You Choose Your Path” and Stutesman says she is absolutely certain she is heading in the right direction, and hopes to inspire her students to make good choices for their future as well.
Who should our next “Feature Teacher” be?