By Kim Walter
STEPHENS CITY -- Jason Uhry still doesn't know who nominated him for the Virginia Association of Marketing Educators 2013 Teacher of the Year award, and realizes that he probably never will.
Whoever it was, the nomination paid off, as Uhry was selected from three finalists to receive the recognition during VAME's annual conference recently.
Uhry has been teaching marketing for 10 years; the past six of them being at Sherando High School in Stephens City, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
Contrary to past experience teaching in New Hampshire, he actually teaches more specialized classes at Sherando, like hospitality and tourism, and sports entertainment marketing.
To Uhry, it doesn't really matter what type of marketing class he's teaching -- he loves it all.
"It all ties back to the basics of marketing," he said Monday, sitting in his classroom. "I've always been drawn to the practicality of the subject. That's something that will never change."
Uhry credits his high school DECA adviser with influencing him to get into the marketing field. Many of Uhry's students at Sherando are currently involved with DECA, a nonprofit student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.
Along with a standard marketing curriculum, Uhry works in a number of DECA initiatives, projects and teaching methods into his students' experience.
Uhry admitted that teaching marketing is quite a bit different than teaching a standardized, core subject like history or mathematics.
"I have to keep up with current trends and events," he said. "Especially with the way the world is today ... marketing is always evolving, and my students are pretty in tune with that."
Social media has been a required part of Uhry's curriculum for the past two years, but he said it plays a larger role with every coming semester.
"The kids are really familiar with Twitter and hashtags ... all that stuff that wasn't a part of what I learned when I was in school," he said. "But it makes a big difference now."
Uhry said he can usually tell when certain students are drawn to the marketing world. He said they're rather enthusiastic about everything they do for the class, and can't help but get creative with each assigned task.
In Uhry's classroom, one might notice the bright array of sports drinks lined up under his white board. He said the display came from one project in which he assigned a different brand of sports drink to each student. They then had to decide how to market the product to consumers, playing off its color and attributes.
"I think that project just shows the students how marketing is a real world topic," he said. "It touches on so many things that they care about and pay attention to."
Part of being one of the three Teacher of the Year finalists meant being observed by one of VAME's board members -- often a retired marketing teacher. Uhry said it was a little nerve wracking to spend a day with an extra pair of eyes on him.
Uhry wasn't able to get feedback on his classroom experience right away, but was told after the fact what judges liked most about his teaching.
"They said they liked my classroom environment," he said, looking around at the walls covered in colorful advertisements. "And, something that was very nice to hear, was that they could tell I love what I do."
Uhry's students also help run Sherando's School Apparel Store, which is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business. He said students have to maintain that accreditation every year.
"It's not something every high school can do," he said. "But it's something we're very proud of."
This past year, some of Uhry's students helped create a public relations campaign for the local American Legion. He said it was a successful project, and showed students how marketing can make a community impact.
Projects like those also help students realize the number of job opportunities that come with a business or marketing background.
"Each year we come up with something different, but that's what's so great about marketing," he said. "It'll always be a necessary, interesting field that leads to jobs."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org