The pressure is on. It’s the lightning round of a “Jeopardy”-like game show that challenges two Caledonia High School sports and entertainment marketing students to hit a buzzer before their opponent when they think they know the answer to a business-related question.
Guess correctly, and marketing teacher Jerry Keron hands the student mock money he or she can redeem for extra-credit points.
♥What the Real World Expects
It’s a face-off that teaches them what the world beyond high school will be like.
“In business, the greatest amount of communication takes place where?” Keron starts. “Over the telephone, email or face to face?”
Buzz! “The telephone,” chimes in a student. Correct.
Question: “True or false: Memberships with professional organizations are not as important when you’ve reached your career goals?”
“Mentors are paid to train young people in a profession?”
“Old-fashioned work is no longer needed to make it in the business world?”
Keron looks upfrom his game cards and it’s immediately clear he doesn’t like what he sees.
“You’re not going to get it right sitting back in your chair,” he tells a slouching student. “You’ve got to be on the edge of your seat.”
The student complies and the game resumes.
Keron is far from being a curmudgeon, say his students. Humor and straight talk are joined at the hip for this educator who is the first to say he loves wearing a number of instructive hats at the high school.
They include teaching marketing, sports and entertainment marketing, leadership marketing, work-based learning (co-op) and student store management, as well as DECA, a business marketing student organization offered in high schools and colleges that provides “learning by doing” activities through business-related lessons and competitions.
He also coaches the ninth-grade baseball team.
No Gray Areas
All of Keron’s classes are electives, but his students say they enroll for good reason.
“There is no gray area with Mr. Keron,” junior Ashley Pell said. “It’s either black or white. He knows when to joke and when to be serious.”
In a world often filled with ambiguity, Keron is anything but, said sophomore Travis Kuhfeldt.
“He’s straightforward,” Travis said. “He gets the point across well.”
The student-run store also serves as an elective class, which gives students hands-on management skills that include knowing how to do inventory, interact with customers and run a cash register.
“He gives you an opportunity to learn and develop leadership skills,” junior Jackie Mercier said. “He lets us grow, and we grow by learning how to work and present ourselves to other people.”
Keron’s teaching style was honed in the “real world.” Soon after graduating from Bowling Green State University in 1982, he snagged a sales representative job with the former Lever Bros. Co., selling household products in the U.S. and around the world. His experience is a key reason students say they are drawn to his marketing classes.
After 13 years of teaching, Keron keeps alive a full-throttle passion for teaching the ins and outs of the ever-changing world of marketing promotions.
“I’m fun and I’m real,” Keron said. “Teaching comes natural. I have confidence because I lived it. I can tell my students what not to do.”
The thought he would one day be teaching students how to budget their finances and develop marketing plans for multi-national companies never entered his mind when he got into sales. But it did 20 years later, when Lever Bros.’ parent company consolidated and he found himself without a job. Coaching his two sons’ and a daughter’s basketball and softball teams, respectively, gave him new career insight.
“I enjoyed the atmosphere of a high school,” Keron said. “My mother and father-in-law were school teachers. I felt I might be a good coach and high-school teacher.”
Back to School
Keron earned a teaching minor in business at Aquinas College, and was a student teacher for a semester at the former Rogers High School. He was hired at Caledonia Community Schools for the 2002-03 school year, and for the first six years taught introduction to computer applications.
He also taught personal budget guru Dave Ramsey’s high-school financial peace classes. He pitched the idea to school administrators for personal reasons: both he and his wife had amassed student-loan debt later in their lives and were able to dig themselves out by following Ramsey’s plan.
“I could teach Ramsey’s classes because I lived it,” Keron said.
When a marketing teacher retired in the 2009-10 school year, Keron started teaching his current classes.
A Good Busy
Oh, he’s also department head of the high school business department.
“I’m busy, and that’s good.”
Keron said becoming an educator later in life benefits his students.
“I raised three children,” he said. “My age, my experience and my passion all work together as a teacher. I love teaching 14- to 17-year-olds because I have fond memories of my high school years.
“It gives me satisfaction when I know students have learned something. It makes me feel good to be a part of that.”