It all began with two lemonade stands. Then came the state award. Next could come a meeting with a former vice president of the United States.
The Fivay High teaching team of Eric J. Johnson and Stefanie Adams finished the 2012-13 school year by winning first place at the high school level at the 34th Annual Governor's Awards, hosted by the Florida Council on Economic Education. Awarded for the project "Customer Service Has A BIG Impact On small Business," the council recognized Johnson and Adams among "Florida's most outstanding teachers for creativity in presenting lessons in economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship."
According to Johnson, this award is just the beginning.
"We're just scratching the surface," said Johnson, a four-time winner. "It's just going to get bigger and better."
The teachers bring different experiences to their team. Johnson teaches social studies, geography and economics. Adams is a one-time biology instructor who built upon her experience as a professional caterer to become a culinary arts teacher.
Despite their diverse backgrounds, the two found that they had a common objective.
"At the end of the day, we just want to be sure that the kids have learned something," said Johnson. "We're just two teachers trying to do as much as we can."
"I have a favorite old phrase that I often apply to my students," said Adams. "It says, 'Average people have wishes and dreams. Confident people have goals and plans.' "
Seeking to educate students about the possibilities of success in small business, the teachers conceptualized the customer service project by opening two lemonade stands on campus.
While one stand was a basic, unadorned structure selling lemonade, the other was a fully functioning small business; with Adams' students preparing a gourmet lemonade with special flavorings, decorative ice formations and candy garnishes. Johnson's students renovated an eye-catching vehicle, set product pricing and formulated a marketing and advertising plan.
The students found that the professionally planned and marketed stand far outperformed its more traditional counterpart.
Inspired by the success of the project, the teachers hope to make a bigger impact this year with an occasional formal restaurant at Fivay.
Set to be presented on two evenings in the school's atrium, the upscale eatery will be open to the public with individual meal sales and exclusive table sponsorships available.
Adams' culinary students will plan and prepare the menu. Johnson's social studies and economics students will set prices and market and advertise the restaurant. Special-needs students at the school will create centerpieces, which also will serve as fundraisers for the construction of an educational play area for autistic students at the school.
"It seems we just had an 'Aha moment' ," Adams said, "and we're running with it."
Johnson hopes Adams and her students will join his AP human geography class for a planned trip to Costa Rica in January where they will study environmental concepts in the Amazon rain forest and perhaps meet former Vice President Al Gore.
"The one thing that these projects have in common," said Johnson, "is that they open students' minds up to the possibilities."