Louis DiCesare, Business Teacher & DECA Adviser, Irondequoit High School, Rochester, New York
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Creating a Class Course With Competitive Circumstances
What started with a big win at a conference booth has led to
nearly 23 years of teaching high schoolers using Knowledge
Matters Virtual Business simulations. Early on in his teaching
career, Louis DiCesare from Irondequoit High School in New
York was at a business conference and participated in a
competition for teachers to complete the Virtual Business
(VB)-Retailing simulation by Knowledge Matters. The prize was
a Knowledge Matters license for the VB-Retailing simulation,
which Mr. DiCesare ultimately won! He created a course around
the concepts in the simulation and as the simulations evolved
throughout the years, so did the
classes. “I had a business ownership and
marketing class back in the 1999-2000
school year. So when I won this license,
I found an opportunity to integrate it
as it applied to the curriculum of that
class. As I got more familiar with the
product and started peeling back the
layers of the onion, I realized that there
was enough content to also create a
retail and management focused course,”
From Industry to the Classroom
Mr. DiCesare graduated from Alfred University with a degree
in marketing and management. He worked in advertising for
about eight years and was asked to volunteer for a program in
Junior Achievement, which is a 15-week program where students
learn how to start and run a business by selling a product. After
enjoying that experience with the students, he wondered how he
could do something like this for a living and went back to college
to get his teaching certification. Two years later, he started his
teaching career and has been in the classroom for 26 years. He
teaches 9th through 12th grade students in a variety of business
courses including College Accounting, International Business,
Personal Investing, Career and Financial Management, and Sports
Marketing. He and his colleagues at Irondequoit High School use
nearly all of the nine different Virtual Business simulations in their
classes. He loves the VB-Sports Management simulation for his
Sports Marketing class.
Finding a Way To Engage All Learners
Irondequoit High School is in a suburb of Rochester, NY and has
a very diverse student body. Mr. DiCesare believes it is great to
have diversity in education because his students are able to learn
about different cultures and backgrounds and draw upon those
strengths to overcome challenges and obstacles collectively. He
thinks of the school community as a kind of microcosm of our
country that will prepare his students for life after graduation.
As many teachers can relate, some of the biggest challenges
he faces are getting his students to complete assignments and
keeping them engaged. As a high school teacher it can be difficult
to create lessons that are rigorous and relevant for students,
motivating them to want to come to class and learn. As a big
believer in learning by doing, Mr. DiCesare loves how engaged
the students are when they use the Virtual Business simulations.
Especially with the current “point and click” generation that
thrives on instant gratification, the simulations appeal to the type
of learner who may be more excited and engaged while using
technology. He finds that at the end of his 42 minute period, the
bell will ring and he has a hard time getting some of his students
to go to their next class because they are so drawn into the
simulation and excited to complete it.
He gives a traditional delivery of his lessons first in his classroom and then pairs that lesson with a corresponding simulation. His students are able to take the concepts and theories learned in class and then apply it in the simulation, allowing the student to elevate their learning and engage with the content from class at a higher level. He sees their retention for the material is much greater at the end of the year. He finishes his year with a capstone project where he is able to see that their answers in those assessments are much deeper and richer as a result of using the simulations from Knowledge Matters.
Mr. DiCesare says “All I try to do as a teacher is elevate my repertoire, to not be afraid to try new ideas and introduce things that will make the learning more relevant. And that’s one of the nice things about teaching business is that business is constantly changing. As a result of [that] you can’t stay complacent in what you taught from one year to the next.” He always tries to connect current events in a particular business field to make it more real and relatable for the students. The simulations also help him achieve this goal well because they put the students into a virtual environment comparable to a business in the real world. Students can literally have their own ideas and then implement them, seeing instant results of their choices and if their business will succeed or fail. By working through the simulations, students get a better taste of the real world, why certain things happen, and why each decision they make in life and in business is important.
Preparing Students for DECA’s International Career and Development Conference
A fun tactic that he uses is encouraging healthy competition among the students, similar to the competition he took part in at the business conference some time ago. In his class, Mr. DiCesare covers different sections of sports marketing, he likes to spice it up and create some competition for his students. For example, if he is covering ticket prices, it is the student’s responsibility to meet the learning standard. He also has a board comparing year long ticket profits among his students. He runs these small competitions all year long for his students and gives them bonus points for where they place at the conclusion. He says, “They live for this and just the competitive element adds another layer [to the simulations] which is nice.”
The students who are extremely competitive in his classes seek
out participating in the yearly DECA International Career and
Development Conference (ICDC) Competitions. To qualify for
ICDC, students compete in their respective simulation topics
against students all over the world. Mr. DiCesare has seen 150 of
his students qualify for a variety of DECA events at ICDC over
the years. They compete against the best of the best, in-person,
some in the Virtual Business Challenge using the simulations
and others compete in various DECA contests as well. For the
students who prepare
for the Virtual Business
Challenge, he says there
are some who spend a
significant amount of
time working through
the simulations, including
time out of his class as
well. He says it’s not
uncommon for some of
his students to spend up
to 38 hours outside of
his class to work on their
simulations. His students
are extremely motivated
to see how their scores
rank compared to students all over the country and it adds to their
desire to work hard on the simulations. “Ultimately the goal is that
they’re learning a lot, and in turn they get to qualify for ICDC.
And they’re excited about that.” says Mr. DiCesare.
Another part about competing at ICDC that he loves for his students is the social learning aspect and how many people they get to meet from different parts of the country.
"It is so important in their growth and development as an adult and it is exciting to watch and see their strength and confidence in their ability to talk to people from different cultures."
says Mr. DiCesare. He also describes that being an advisor and
watching his students compete, he sometimes thinks he is
more nervous than them during competitions. The DECA ICDC
competition is such a great opportunity for both students and
advisors to grow and learn.
Student Success in Competitions and in the Workplace
A handful of his previous students who have gone into the sports
career field have shared that they felt much more prepared when
they got to college as a result of Mr. DiCesare’s Sports Marketing
class, he said “It made me feel good to know that I’m preparing
them for a career. Not everybody is going to go into sports
management per se and it’s nice to know that the ones that do
choose to, feel prepared. To know that they see how what they’re
doing in their career is in conjunction with what was taught at the
Most of his students in the Sports Marketing class are members of DECA and they do a variety of presentations on different topics related to sports marketing. He works with his students on creating solid foundations for these presentations and when he learned about the DECA/Knowledge Matters Digital Skills Presentation Challenge, it was a natural fit to what they were already doing in the classroom.
In 2022 Cayden Catalina, a student in his Sports Marketing class, won 2nd place in the DECA/Knowledge Matters Digital Presentation Skills Challenge and DECA’s ICDC. She went on to receive an opportunity to intern for Knowledge Matters in the education marketing division during her winter break. There she got to apply the skills she learned in class and through the simulations to help out at a Knowledge Matters marketing event. Not only was Mr. DiCesare proud of seeing her succeed, but so was the marketing team at Knowledge Matters. To see the transfer of skills learned was remarkable.
In 2023, once again Mr. DiCesare had a student win 2nd place in the DECA/Knowledge Matters Digital Presentation Skills Challenge - Reid Wygal. When it comes to his Sports Marketing class, he seems to have a winning teaching strategy!
Inspiring Students To Take the Next Step
One student started taking his Sports Marketing class during their
freshman year went on to qualify and compete at DECA ICDC
for Virtual Business-Sports for four years in a row. One of those
years the student even earned the National Championship. After
high school the student went on to attend Syracuse University
and reached back out to Mr. DiCesare during his senior year of
college. The student sent him a picture of his capstone project
for his major in Sports Management and it was the Knowledge
Matters Case Simulation. Case Simulations are advanced level
simulations specific for use at colleges and universities. The
student’s professor could not believe how fast and how well the
student had completed the project. Mr. DiCesare was delighted to
hear from the student and know that he helped contribute to the
success the student was able to achieve after his class and ICDC
experience in high school.
Mr. DiCesare also shared a letter he received from a student who was a freshman that took his Sports Marketing class and wrote, “I want to thank you for all the opportunities given to me this year. At first I wasn’t going to take Sports Marketing so that I could take another course. But I’m so glad I did. It’s become my favorite class. I’ve always loved sports, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and especially football. The inside look at sports marketing has fascinated me, especially with the software program, I’m even now considering a job in that field. Thank you and enjoy your break.”
The simulation not only captured the student’s attention enough to grab their interest in the class and what was being taught, but it also ultimately encouraged them to pursue a career path in that field.
Guiding Student Interest Through Career Discovery, Competition, and College
In 2022, Mr. DiCesare was recognized as one of eDynamic
Learning and Knowledge Matters’ Career Compass Award winners.
He said, “It was nice to be recognized for the work I have done in
the classroom. Teaching is a very isolated profession. For people
outside of my four classroom walls to say, ‘Great job!’ It helped
motivate me to want to continue to take risks in the classroom for
better learning opportunities. For me it’s about the students, not
me. So, I didn’t make a big deal about it in the classroom about
receiving the award, but on the inside I was very proud of the
Mr. DiCesare encourages students to explore their passions through his lessons and introduces them to real-world experiences with the Knowledge Matters Virtual Business simulations. He is a testament to how the VB Simulations have stood the test of time in his classes through two decades of teaching, even with the changes that come in the business world. He evolved his curriculum into what it is today by complementing his classes with the simulations and hoping to prepare his students for tomorrow, whether their path leads them to college or a university, or straight into the workforce.