TanenbaumCHAT’s business program has earned a stellar reputation, and for good reason. Over the years, the school has ushered in a unique suite of business courses and extracurricular activities that are second to none.

“When I was hired at TanenbaumCHAT, 21 years ago, I was tasked with building the business offerings,” says Jordan Hoffman, head of the Business and Economics program at TanenbaumCHAT. “I realized that the best way to create more demand for business courses was to offer engaging extracurricular business activities so that students could get a taste of what business was all about. Over the years, these programs have continued to grow into an extremely robust program. We are thrilled to offer students business opportunities they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

As part of the curriculum, students in Grades 11 and 12 can enrol in Economics, Accounting, Business Leadership, International Business and Entrepreneurship. These courses are so popular, even amongst students who don’t intend to pursue business as a career, that more than 200 students take the Business Leadership course alone.

Hands-on learning

Experiential learning is a very important aspect of the classroom experience. “For example, in the Business Leadership class, students complete a variety of hands-on group tasks, most notably the Venture Week Experience,” says business teacher Vince Bruni. “Each group is given $250 and tasked with creating a business by developing and executing a realistic business plan (including brand strategy, marketing, operational and contingency plans) and then reflecting on their experience and evaluating their performance.”

At the end of the course, everyone has the chance to participate in giving tzedakah, as profits are donated to Shalva, a non-profit organization in Israel that improves the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families.

Students also have the chance to learn through case studies or real-world examples following a learning technique used in higher education, so students can see what it’s like to attend schools such as Harvard Business School and Ivey Business School at Western University. Upon graduation, many TanenbaumCHAT students go on to attend business or commerce programs at university.

L. to R.: Teachers Amy Goldsweig, Bryce Ridge, Jordan Hoffman and Vince Bruni.

Header photo: Many students had the chance to attend the school’s New York Experience Trip last October. Open to members of TanenbaumCHAT’s business program, students visited a range of companies including The New York Times, Bloomberg and Joele Frank, a niche crisis management and communications firm. The trip gave students behind-the-scenes access to companies and exposed them to various areas of business, including finance, marketing and management.

“Our philosophy involves creating authentic tasks to which students apply the curriculum expectations and theoretical knowledge,” says Bruni. “By allowing students to make connections between the content and how the content manifests itself in reality, students gain valuable insight and solidify their understanding. This framework underscores the importance of active engagement, problem-solving and social interaction in the learning process.”

Unique experiences beyond the classroom

Hoffman says that while classroom learning is fantastic, “it’s what we’re doing outside the classroom that makes us truly unique.” He applauds the way staff, students, alumni, parents and leaders in the business community come together to create unparalleled extracurricular opportunities for students.

The Business Council, for example, offers all interested students the chance to hone their business chops. As the first formal business-related club that was established at TanenbaumCHAT, the Business Council is a way for students to devise and run real, for-profit business ventures, with all profits going to charity or for needs within the school. Falling within the Business Council umbrella, students in the Food Services Program gain hands-on experience working with vendors, managing distribution and delivering hundreds of food orders a day to their peers. Those involved in StartUP TanenbaumCHAT organize a business conference in which alumni are invited to the school to provide participants with insights into entrepreneurship and careers in business. It’s also a great opportunity to network. Meanwhile, a business competition called Tigers’ Den pits teams of students against each other, “Dragons’ Den” style, to pitch a business they want to launch. Alumni return to TanenbaumCHAT to judge the pitches, offer feedback and select a winning team.

Students L. to R.: Abby Dacks, (L. to R.:) Cooper Gottlieb and Matias Marjovsky and Samantha Foucault.

Abby Dacks (Grade 12) is heavily involved in the business extracurricular activities. She is the co-president of the school’s DECA team. As Dacks explains it, DECA is a case competition in which high-school students enrich their business knowledge and presentation skills by competing in written exams and role-play competitions. TanenbaumCHAT alumni act as judges and give advice and mentorship to current students.

Samantha Foucault (Grade 11) is DECA co-president and a founding executive of the Women in Business Club, which is new to the school this year. “Members of this club have the opportunity to hear from different women with impressive business careers,” says Foucault. “I have been inspired by these speakers and have been able to ask them first-hand about their experiences navigating the business world.”

The Women in Business Club is supervised by teacher Amy Goldsweig. “I’m a big believer in empowering women, in making sure women have a voice,” says Goldsweig, who was approached by a proactive group of students last year about starting the club. They had noticed that while all the business clubs at school are open to everyone, there was nothing specific to address the needs of women who aspire to go into the business world. “There are more barriers to entry and success in the business world for women,” says Goldsweig. “They all want to prepare themselves for success.”

(L. to R.:) Jenna Kellner Izraelski ‘05 (Vice President of Marketing at Minerva) at StartUp TanenbaumCHAT; Students marketing their wares during Venture Week; the Investment Council in session.

A real investment

Yet the club that really sets the school apart is the recently formed Investment Council. “Students who participate in this club manage a real fund of money,” says Hoffman, noting that the seed funding comes from profits made by the school’s Business Council. “I am aware of only one other high school that offers this opportunity.”

Jack Elkind ’22 was one of the founders of the Investment Council. “At school I got interested in business and finance. A lot of students were interested in stocks, investing and personal finance and I realized this could be further developed,” says Elkind, now a Commerce student at Queen’s University. “I really wanted to create a platform where students had an outlet to use the skills we learned in our courses and apply it to investing.”

After speaking to Hoffman, Elkind and his peers presented the idea to school administration, who were receptive to the idea and excited to see students taking such initiative.

Grade 12 students Cooper Gottlieb and Matias Marjovsky are co-presidents of the Investment Council this year, among juggling a variety of additional leadership roles within the business extracurricular program at TanenbaumCHAT. “We used to use a stock simulator, but last year we pitched the school administration on an initial fund investment, which will be utilized to create our initial investments,” says Gottlieb. “Having this opportunity will make TanenbaumCHAT students stand out when applying for university. It gives us a competitive advantage.”

The duo also wanted to focus more on education, to level the playing field so younger students and those who don’t study business can have similar knowledge. Gottlieb and Marjovsky also created an Advisory Board made up of alumni, parents and community members who have expertise in the industry. “They are providing us with industry connections and guidance on our stock pitches,” says Gottlieb. “By having advisors, we are connecting with the community and preparing students for the future.”

Alumni on board

As a Vice President, Director and Portfolio Manager at Bloom Investment Counsel, Inc., Adina Bloom Somer ’93 loves the way the school sets students up for success in business. She points out how the business classrooms are set up to simulate a boardroom, while the hands-on learning experiences and team environment make the business program offerings especially unique. That’s why Bloom Somer was excited to join the Investment Council’s Advisory Board. “I provide feedback to council members on what to look for in a potential investment and help them with their presentation and analysis skills providing them with a solid foundation for their stock pitches.”

Aaron Vale ’02 (pictured, below) joined the Advisory Board this year. He is Head of Infrastructure Client Solutions within CBRE Investment Management and is excited about the extracurriculars being offered to students today. “The opportunity to work on the evaluation and presentation of stock investments as high-school students is amazing and one I wish I’d had when I was in high school. This will give students real-world investing experience which is invaluable regardless of whether they ultimately pursue an investment career.”

Barry Schwartz is a proud parent of a current student and an alum. He owns a wealth management firm and believes most students wouldn’t otherwise get to have these business experiences until university. “After health and your family, money and retirement are absolutely important, but many students will go into other fields and learn babkas about something so essential.” Schwartz says it’s never too early to start learning about business and is also glad to be serving on the Advisory Board. “We’re all trying to give students the tools to succeed in all facets of life.”

Investment Council co-president Matias couldn’t be more appreciative. “It’s great to see alumni getting involved and forming a network. We’re very grateful to everyone who participates in our school’s business initiatives for all the work they do. None of this would be possible without them.”

Dacks sums up her experience in TanenbaumCHAT’s business program well. “It has been the most incredible and rewarding experience and I have had the privilege of creating special bonds with students of all ages,” says Dacks. “I credit Mr. Hoffman and the entire business department for giving all of us these experiences which have had such a profound impact on our lives.”