Steamboat Springs Middle School Teacher “Instrumental” in JA Growth

For some, teaching for 22 years would lead to a routine. However, for personal finance teacher Marco Cuevas, it is a continuous mission to find more innovative and engaging ways for students to learn in the classroom. In fact, Junior Achievement (JA) middle school programs were established at Steamboat Springs Middle School largely because of Cuevas’s curiosity and initiative.

“Marco has been instrumental in the continued growth of JA curriculum in Routt County,” says Michelle Manring, JA District Manager for Mountain Communities. “He is preparing students to make difficult decisions about how to best prepare for their educational and professional future.”

One of the programs Cuevas brings to his class is JA Start It Up, where students research, create, and market their own “product.” Cuevas says he has seen students’ life skills evolve beyond the program concepts; they develop social aptitude through collaboration, commit to a project from inception to execution, explore their creativity, and witness the tangible results of informed decision-making.

“It’s authentic learning,” Cuevas says. “By providing something that they’ll actually remember 10 or 15 years from now…they’re going to remember those lessons because they’re authentic.”

Cuevas’s leadership was also a crucial component in creating an original program called JA Destination Success. He learned about JA Finance Park, presented by Transamerica, and was eager to face the three-hour drive to see the program in person with his students. With the help of JA staff, he made the most out of the trip by incorporating job shadows at Denver-area businesses and global market simulation activities for a two-day, overnight field trip at no cost to the kids.

“It gives them a chance to hear from people in the working world and how they got to where they are,” Cuevas says. “They get a bigger scope of the world beyond Steamboat.”

With Cuevas’s advocacy, support for JA in the Mountain Communities District continues to expand exponentially. JA is fortunate to have a strong community supporter like him to attend meetings with grant reviewers, City Council, and JA Board members, where he shares his firsthand experience. This year his testimonies helped JA earn $2,000 additional grant dollars for programs.

JA elementary, middle and high school curricula build upon one another, and because of the natural trajectory Cuevas helped create, JA is working to progress into Steamboat Springs high schools. In his own teaching endeavors, Cuevas’s personal goal is “to continue to stay on track with new concepts, ideas or trends with young people.”

Watch the slideshow Cuevas created with memories from JA Destination Success 2016 below: