Swimming With Sharks

Congratulations to Team Up Co-Founders left to right: Lauren Civello, Jessica Young, John Vesque, and Marcus Zaif.
Congratulations to Team Up Co-Founders left to right: Lauren Civello, Jessica Young, John Vesque, and Marcus Zaif.
Right to left, the sharks consisted of: Whitman Principal Kathie Acker, mathematics teacher Malaury Samedy, Assistant Principals Jon Varlamos and Scott Muller, and Whitman’s College and Career Ready Coach, Rob Callahan.
Right to left, the sharks consisted of: Whitman Principal Kathie Acker, mathematics teacher Malaury Samedy, Assistant Principals Jon Varlamos and Scott Muller, and Whitman’s College and Career Ready Coach, Rob Callahan.

A shark tank experience was waiting for Walt Whitman’s entrepreneurship classes, and the sharks ate up the presenters like chum.

As an avid viewer of the popular television series “The Shark Tank,” Ms. Lillian Hsiao, Whitman’s business entrepreneurship class instructor, credits the show for giving her a new set of tools to teach entrepreneurship in an interesting and fun way. “'Shark Tank' represents real-life evaluation of entrepreneurs trying to bring their products to a mass market,” said Ms. Hsiao. “Many of my students have started watching 'Shark Tank' with their families.” The "Shark Tank" experience, presented in Whitman’s Performing Arts Center, gave her students a real-time and real-life experience to pitch their concept and strategy and then answer questions from a panel of "sharks."

The classes are part of Whitman’s Business Education Department, and this class specifically is designed to give students the skills needed to effectively organize, develop, create, and manage their own businesses. Students worked in small teams to create and develop a business plan that they presented to a panel of "sharks" as they tried to secure funding for their companies. After the first round of "Whitman Shark Tank," students will incorporate comments by the "sharks" as they look to fine-tune their presentations in preparation for round two.

The students' comments on how they would improve their presentations ranged from: "We should have proofread our documents. In the real Shark Tank, they would have sent us home right away" to "I needed to speak louder, and to improve on this, I need to practice public speaking" and "We needed to prepare more before we presented to the sharks. Next time I could improve on this by writing something up beforehand to read in front of the sharks."

The sharks consisted of Whitman Principal Kathie Acker, mathematics teacher Malaury Samedy, Assistant Principals Jon Varlamos and Scott Muller, and Whitman’s College and Career Ready Coach, Rob Callahan.

The first round was an eye opener for our students and their teacher. “The overall experience for me as a teacher was a great learning curve,” said Ms. Hsiao. “I definitely felt overprotective during the challenge as I watched my students squirm and their faces deflate as the sharks grilled them. But I made mental notes on how I could help them prepare in the classroom before the next challenge.”

The sharks did invest in one of the five companies looking to secure funding. Team Up Foundation, a not-for-profit entity that raises money to teach kids how to play team sports, presented a buttoned-up approach and confidently answered questions that satisfied the hungry sharks. Congratulations to Team Up Co-Founders: Lauren Civello, Jessica Young, John Vesque, and Marcus Zaif.