Marian Central Catholic High School will bring the workplace to the classroom with the help of community leaders, business professionals and entrepreneurs in a new space created  specifically for an authentic and innovative learning experience. 

The Innovative Design in Entrepreneurial Applications class is a collaborative teaching program where students work in teams guided by mentors over the course of the year to create and pitch a service or product in “Shark Tank”-style to a group of investors. 

IDEA is part of, an organization committed to helping students turn ideas into reality and work together to change the world. The overarching goal is to employ student creativity, critical thinking, adaptability and collaboration in order to effectively problem solve while being guided by professionals in the field.

Woodstock School District 200 offers a similar program to its high-school students.

“Our students need strong mentors and coaches as they work – men and women who have the ability to share their wisdom and strengths,” Marian Central Catholic High School principal Debra Novy said.

Business teacher James Sarther and Novy currently are working on building and designing a new room dedicated to simulating a work environment and providing a unique learning experience. Not only will the room look and feel different than a traditional classroom, the course also will be structured differently as well – instead of one teacher, leaders in the community will take an active role in teaching the course in the roles of coaches, mentors and members of a board of investors.

Coaches would discuss a variety of section topics such as formulating a pitch, determining price, developing marketing strategies and customer relations. Mentors would work with a team throughout the academic year, answering questions and providing guidance as they develop their product or service. A board of investors also is needed to listen to and give feedback as the teams present their pitch at the end of the year.

“We are seeking local businessmen and businesswomen to help lead, mentor and guide our students. These men and women not only have the opportunity to share their experience with the students, but they have the ability to watch our students build on it,” Novy said.  “I hope that our students use the knowledge they gain and pour that knowledge back into our community again and again.”

She hopes the setting and community participation will help students, “be able to express their creativity and originality; [I want to see them] thinking outside the box as they develop unique ways to approach complex problems. I want the students to experience and embrace the idea that each attempt to solve a problem is not a failure, but instead, one step closer to solving the problem in the most efficient and effective way.”

“Ultimately, I see these students exiting this experience with a mindset that their ideas are valuable and that they can accomplish things that may have a great impact on their community and world,” Novy said.  

Volunteers from the community interested in guiding teams, assisting on the board of investors or presenting lessons in their area of expertise should contact Sarther via email at or Novy at 815-338-4220, ext. 105.

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