When asked to choose two or three words to describe Junior Achievement (JA), these are the words Piyush Arora came up with, based on his experience volunteering in a 6th grade classroom with JA at Westland Middle School in Bethesda on November 18, 2016.
Arora works for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where he helps government agencies improve their organizational and accounting business processes. Luckily for Arora, at PwC, volunteering and giving back to the community is at the core of the company’s corporate culture and PwC is also a longstanding partner of Junior Achievement.
Recently, PwC and JA USA worked together to create the JA Build Your Future app, which helps teens explore potential future income from a desired career and evaluate the cost of post-secondary education to help them make informed decisions.
The company also provides employees with numerous opportunities to give back throughout the year, including several “Volunteering Days” when every employee at PwC gets a day out of the office to volunteer and give back to the community in some facet; this particular opportunity is how Arora first heard about JA.
For Arora, volunteering with JA intrigued him because he had been actively searching for opportunities to teach kids for quite some time.
“I’ve always wanted to participate in programs like Teach for America, but couldn’t find the right mix of time and courage,” said Arora. “Junior Achievement makes this opportunity to teach kids accessible for all adults. And because it breaks this opportunity into bite sized pieces -- a one-day commitment and a choice of teaming up with a partner -- it was the perfect way for me to test the waters and determine if the skills and personality needed to teach and teach kids is right for me.”
And test the waters he did. He quickly learned what it takes to command a classroom for an entire day and gained a new respect for teachers everywhere.
“What I found the most challenging about this experience was just the skillset and energy it takes to teach 6th graders,” said Arora. “I felt pretty helpless a few times, especially towards the second half of the day, when the class was getting tired and I could see some students slipping away. But with that said, these challenges provided me with thoughts and ideas that will help me be better next time.”
Challenges of the day aside, Arora said that his favorite part of the day were “the moments where the lesson, the students, and I connected.”
“The questions they asked that tied their personal experiences with the lessons were so fascinating,” said Arora. “And perhaps more importantly, the excitement that they portrayed when engaging in even the most simple of activities like the choice game – whereby, I offered them two choices: Twix or M&Ms, and they would stand or sit to vote for their favorite chocolate, was really great.”
While Arora admitted that his first time in the classroom was a bit intimidating and he was “pretty risk-averse in his teaching style” this time around, he tried his best to mimic the teaching style of the guy he considers to be the most inspirational person in his life: his AP Chemistry teacher, Mr. Don Ayotte.
“[Mr. Ayotte’s] passion for the subject, his ability to simplify complex topics and keep his students engaged, and his personal connections with his students, these were the things that made me over-exert myself every day in his classroom so I could get that A in his class,” said Arora. “Today, it is the only grade I remember from high school, and I try my best to mimic that classroom experience in anything I do, including as a JA volunteer.”
Arora claims that the structure of the JA lessons and the materials offered to volunteers took some of the pressure off of him as he led the classroom and helped to calm his nerves.
“The teaching guide and aids that are pre-prepared are extremely well put-together,” Arora offered. “The lessons and exercises are organized well – with most important information highlighted, the material is colorful, and the exercises for each lesson are a blast to prepare and deliver. The content covered in these lessons was, in my experience, perfectly well-suited for that age, and in a style that is akin to problem-based approach.”
In advising future #JAHero volunteers, Arora’s best is advice is that preparation is key.
“I would encourage having the materials at least a week in advance, and allocating 1 to 2 hours every night for reviewing them,” said Arora. “This will allow you to become comfortable with the presentation of the material, leaving the only variable that day to be the personality of that classroom.”
All in all, Arora values his experience volunteering with JA because it gave him, “an opportunity to get out of his comfort zone and provided a new perspective on weaknesses and ways to overcome them.” He thanked JA staff members for making the experience “smooth, fun, and accessible” and providing “an encouraging community and makes him look forward to volunteering again.”
On behalf of JA, we can’t wait to see Arora back in the classroom and thank him tremendously for his enthusiasm and dedication to empowering the next generation. If you are inspired by Arora’s story and would like to volunteer with JA, there are plenty of different ways to get involved. Simply fill out our Volunteer Inquiry Form and a JA staff member will be in touch shortly to discuss what time, location, and opportunity are right for your schedule and interests.