Teacher Feature – Teachers CJ & Eugene

This month, we're doing not one, but two teachers on this Teacher Feature. If you haven't yet, meet the composed cool of this dynamic duo - Teachers CJ and Eugene. The princely pair (as you can well see) run the Financial Education program at Dwi Emas International School - Malaysia's First Entrepreneurial School. What's Financial Education about? Let's find out from them, shall we?

Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Eugene: I'm 32 this year. Was always in youth training before this for about 7 years already. My background is in psychology. I'm passionate about education, co-owning 3 different education initiatives - this program, YuberSports, and leadership and life skills training.

CJ: How old am I.... Wait, let me count. Yes, 34. I've been with the ACE EdVenture group for almost 7 years now. I've always been passionate about business though I graduated as a civil engineer. I started my stock market experience at 18, and my first business at 25, and then moved to to pursue my Masters, focusing on entrepreneurship. Over years of working I realized I was continuously attracted to the education industry - I guess I love teaching.


Why teach Financial Education? What’s it about?

E: I would say my primary aim is to give my students an “aha” moment, and drive them to achieve more than they think they can.

Financial Education is not just about financial literacy; it’s also about developing an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s an innovative, creative, collaborative mindset that teaches people to be problem solvers and opportunity creators for themselves, and others. You can develop the literacy later, but the sooner you get the mindset, the earlier you see life’s opportunities.

CJ: I started the Financial Education program with ACE after a few years here. It came to me after I realized that even after attending university, no one ever taught me what to do with money, how to earn it, or how to invest. I only got this information in bits and pieces from people; and not all of it was good advice.

To me, it’s about educating young people about money mastery, and the entrepreneurial mind. It doesn’t mean you need to start a business, it’s equipping yourself to think like an entrepreneur. I’ve heard stories of 20-somethings getting into bad debt, and some even having to file for bankruptcy. So we want to prevent that by teaching people about money, and the power of giving.


Why teach it from a young age?

E: People tend to start at around age 26 when they realize being an employee is not what they want. So they become entrepreneurs. Most fail, some succeed. If students start young, say about 18-21, they’ll be miles ahead of their peers. It’s about building kids up to be extraordinary, early.

CJ: We constantly get students asking us “why do we learn biology/history/etc.?”. The simple answer is knowledge. They ask if they’ll use it in the future, and my answer is a mere “maybe”. Financial Education however, is something they can use throughout their lives. The younger you start investing, the greater your time for compounding interest. You’d also be much more prepared for your later life when you need those skills to call upon.

Imagine having the ability to fund your tertiary education - isn’t that a big dream come true for both students and parents? Parents work so hard to put aside a hefty sum of money, and wouldn’t making money be a fun journey to share with your kid in part?


How do you teach it?

E: We have our students play board games like Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow. Most of all, there’s experiential learning - for example, designing a 600 sq. ft. apartment. They don’t just create a model, but need to understand what a city dweller does and needs. And they’ll pitch their design to the actual CEO of an Interior Design company.

No, we weren’t kidding.

We also engage mentors of our school like Dave Rogers, to teach them things like Infopreneurship - how to run businesses and make money online.

Tr. CJ and Dave Rogers!

What sets this program apart from others is that CJ and I run our own businesses and run our own training programs. We don’t “teach” entrepreneurship, we “do” it. We teach kids how to get started and learn from failures, and how to create value for others that is something they want.


Is teaching children and teens Financial Education different from teaching adults?

E: Adults tend to think Financial Education is about financial literacy. We want to make it relevant to students, so we make it very hands-on.

I would say children and teens are more open to opportunity, change, and doing things differently. Adults tend to be more set in their ways and find new information hard to accept.

CJ: Kids have a higher energy level, and they have more creativity juice to run out-of-the-box ideas. I get surprised by the ideas they can come up with. They’re less afraid of making mistakes and failing because they enjoy the process - they’ve not been taught to fear it.


I hear there’s a Dwi Emas Bazaar this weekend. Was that run by the Financial Education program?

E: Oh, that’s an entrepreneurial effort by our A-levels students to raise funds for their student body. The school supports the bazaar and we’ve given them whatever support they need, but we’re actually not involved.

We just listened to their pitch, and we did our best to coach and guide them on how to pitch to prospects and partners, how to run an event, and running social media promotion. They have all sorts of activities and over 50 vendors coming on that day, so please come and have fun!


Some people think entrepreneurs are driven by greed, what do you think about this view?

E: I think you actually can name any profession out there and there will be greedy people in every one. It’s just a mindset kind of thing. Entrepreneurs need to solve big problems to get their resources. Profit-driven businesses are great to me because because not only do you take care of yourself but more importantly, add real value to people's lives. It’s sustainable, and scalable business!

People have this concept that “money is the root of all evil”, but we believe money is money. If you’re greedy, whether you have 10 cents or 10 dollars, you’re greedy anyway.


Greatest challenge in teaching?

E: We developed a curriculum ourselves. So it’s always in test and measure mode. We had a good sense of direction, concept, why we’re doing it - the ways we did it needed to be fleshed out, but that was it. A lot of people try to perfect something and make it good FIRST, but we make it better along the way. That’s a core trait of being an entrepreneur - failing forward.

CJ: Being a teacher/entrepreneur, my challenge is for this program to reach as many people as possible, as fast as possible because I know financial education will benefit all of them.

Another would be letting parents know the importance of equipping their children with financial knowledge and the entrepreneurial mindset. It’s interesting that the parents who have some form of wealth or business credibility tend to be the ones who understand us and what we do!


What about your greatest satisfaction?

E: The look in our students’ eyes when they get it. “This can be fun, this can be exciting.”

I once had a student run an activity. She was failing, and then she had a “switch-flip” moment and then she started turning everything around for herself. That was priceless.

I love students coming to me getting excited about running projects, earning money - even if it’s only 10-20 bucks. It’s progress towards their next potential million dollar idea.

CJ: Seeing my students getting results, learning, and having their personal breakthroughs.

I have a Year 8 student - a highly intelligent and quiet person. He created a service to solves mathematical problems for others online. He’s gotten higher-secondary problems as requests, so I challenged him: “what if you get problems from the college and university level?” He responded by going into a partnership with his parents, who are mathematicians. How wonderful that he’s able to leverage off his parents’ expertise to achieve more together!


To close, do you have any words for your students as a teacher/entrepreneur?

CJ: I would say that trust is the new currency, value it. And that family, work, and business can co-exist. A lot of people are hesitant to take on new projects at work because it would mean they have no personal time, or time to run their business. Such a balance can be done, it has been done. We’ve created that environment right here, right now, in ACE EdVenture.


Thank you Tr. CJ and Eugene for taking the time! And don’t forget to join us for the Dwi Emas Bazaar on 30th July!