Hometown Hero: Renee Woodruff of Glendale, Arizona
“Real life” joins Reading, Writing, and 'Rithmetic in this business class
Students at Mountain Ridge High School are learning some real-life skills to prepare them for life outside the classroom. Things like technology, public speaking, business and finance are all part of Renee Woodruff’s curriculum.
“If you give kids the right opportunity, they’ll learn skills for the real world: problem solving, how to work as a team, and giving back to the community,” Woodruff says.
The 25-year veteran educator teaches marketing and information technology at Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Arizona. She’s also the adviser for the school’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and DECA programs, two national co-curricular organizations that help prepare students for future success.
That “opportunity” Woodruff mentions? Participating in FBLA and DECA. Under her inspirational leadership, not only have her students earned top awards at the state and national levels, but more important to Woodruff, they’ve grown as individuals.
“I had a shy, quiet freshman one year,” explains Woodruff. “By the time she was a senior, she had become an FBLA State Officer, speaking in front of thousands of students.”
That student was Shivani Vaidya, a freshman finance major at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I froze up when I had to talk to people in public,” Vaidya says. “Mrs. Woodruff was my mentor in this process and guided me through the first steps of public speaking, what I can do to make myself more confident in my speaking abilities, and how to make good first impressions.”
Vaidya says in her first year for FBLA, when she was 13, she won first place in the job interview event competing against 18-year-olds. She went on to win more than 10 awards including a number at the state level.
“She gave me the tools necessary to get me ready for state office, where I went on to be the very first state officer for FBLA from my school, which opened the gateway into so many opportunities, including speaking to over 5,500 members,” Vaidya says.
Woodruff describes the students in the FBLA and DECA programs as a broad cross-section of the student body. It’s a mix of personalities, interests and abilities, and that’s just how Woodruff likes it. She finds joy in helping each student achieve their very best.
“Everyone has their own ability level, and if I can get them to that next step, it’s all worth it,” she says.
“I certainly haven’t taught them all of the things they know,” she says. “What I really do is give them the space and the tools to help them fulfill what they need to do.”