The business of teaching

Business teacher Kelly Kennedy reflects on her educational journey


Lexie Pilz

Gesturing to her board, business teacher Kelly Kennedy teaches her sixth hour Web Design class. In addition to Web Design, Kennedy teachers courses on Brand Marketing and Multimedia. “I loved the creativity involved with all my jobs. I am sure there were plenty of other things I did not like, but like with most things, the longer I am away from the industry, the more positive the memories become,’” Kennedy said.

Attending welding school, flying to Hawaii and teaching students, business teacher Kelly Kennedy’s career has been anything but traditional. Kennedy explored unconventional approaches to both business and teaching before blending the two in her current position as a Business teacher.

Kennedy first explored business while studying in the field at Missouri State University. She received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing with Management minor. There she participated in an advertising internship with The Marlin Company. 

“My first ‘real job’ was an internship during my junior and senior year of college. I learned so many things from this first job, including time management skills. I was taking 20 credit hours at school and highly involved as an officer of my sorority and an ambassador of the university,” Kennedy said. “Some of the most valuable lessons were how to determine the needs of a client before beginning a project and how to collaborate effectively with team members.”

After graduating, she returned to St. Louis as an account manager for a company called SJi Inc.

“The work was similar, but instead of creating business-to-business advertising materials for the food service industry, I worked with Hallmark Cards creating and advertising in-store promotions for their Hallmark stores,” Kennedy said. 

She was there shortly before taking a job as a large corporate travel event planner with the Maritz Corporation. However, she soon opted for a position that would allow her to spend more time with family. She became an account manager in the creative department.  

“I was responsible for managing the creative team, developing the marketing and communication materials for the event,” Kennedy said. “My largest, and favorite client, was lams pet food. The best part of both of these jobs was all the traveling. In one year, I traveled to Hawaii almost 10 times for lams events. I loved the creativity involved with all my jobs. I went to welding school with pipefitters for a week so I could educate myself on the needs of welders before leading a development team creating a new welding helmet. I loved the perks––box seats at sporting events, travel, lunch and dinners.”

While working with Maritz, she earned her master’s degree at St. Louis University. 

“Once I completed my master’s, I started looking for a role that would allow me to grow professionally. I took a position as marketing director for an international safety products company. I was responsible for new product development,” Kennedy said.

After having children, she opted for a position that would include less travel. She became a mortgage banker.

“Traveling for work became difficult, so I changed careers and became a mortgage banker, helping customers secure home mortgage loans. Although a very different type of position, I was still using my marketing background as I was paid on commission and was responsible for my own marketing,” Kennedy said.

Her children attended Rockwood Schools, and it was there where she became a guest lecturer and felt inspired to take up teaching.

I consider ‘business skills’ to be ‘life skills.’ After years of being a guest in classrooms, I felt called to take the next step to share my experience and my love of all things business with students as a classroom teacher.”

— Kelly Kennedy

“As a guest speaker for Rockwood School District’s personal finance classes for five years, I came to realize many students were graduating from high school with a lot of knowledge but limited life skills,” Kennedy said. “The skills, characteristics and traits that made me successful in business are the same skills, characteristics and personal traits that lead to success in any area of life.  I consider ‘business skills’ to be ‘life skills.’ After years of being a guest in classrooms, I felt called to take the next step to share my experience and my love of all things business with students as a classroom teacher.” 

Kennedy received her certificate in business education and started with Rockwood Schools in August 2011. 

“Many of the life skills I strive to teach my students are the same ones that I have used in both business and teaching, like time management, collaboration, flexibility and listening to others. I do think that I teach differently than others because of my background. In many cases I am less concerned about the learning of the actual curriculum and more interested in the life skills students are developing,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy started with Parkway in 2019 as a business teacher. Many of her classroom initiatives reflect her time in business and diverge from traditional teaching styles. 

“Every rubric in my classes includes a ‘work ethic’ component. This allows students to reflect and work toward developing strong employability skills like the ability to meet deadlines, dependability, ability to follow guidelines and work well with a team. These are the traits employers desire,” Kennedy said.

While her teaching career is still in its infancy, Kennedy has set concrete goals for her students, now and in the future. 

“My biggest goals for my students are to learn transferable skills they can use in anything they do when they leave the halls of West High, and to realize their full potential. So many students don’t give themselves credit for all that they are able to do,” Kennedy said. “The expectations for themselves are low because they just don’t understand what they are capable of or that they are worthy of more.”