After speaking to a class at Montgomery County Public Schools, Maisie Dunbar finds her real-world insights help guide nail students.
These students (comprised of about 10% nail students and 90% cosmetology students) pose with salon owner and school advisory committee member Maisie Dunbar (tall woman in the back row) during Dunbar’s class visit.
Veteran nail tech and salon owner Maisie Dunbar wears many hats. The owner of Maisie Dunbar Spa Lounge in Silver Spring, Md., Dunbar recently accepted an additional role: an advisory board committee member for Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) cosmetology and nail tech programs. “I accepted because I realize the students need to learn all they can about the industry, so when they receive their licenses they will already have a clear understanding of the options available in the beauty industry and decide what they want to pursue.”
MCPS includes several public vocational high schools that are well-renowned for turning out salon-ready graduates. (Dunbar has hired several of the school’s graduates over the past decade, as has a hair salon owner who is also on the new committee). But the school is always looking to improve, and that’s where Dunbar comes in with her years of experience.
A first committee meeting earlier this month led to Dunbar speaking to the new cosmetology and nail tech students at Edison Career Center. “I talked about how empowering it is to be a beauty professional and gave some examples. I told them about my journey and what it takes to not only be successful but to stay in the game of success. They were very excited,” Dunbar says.
Dunbar encourages other nail schools to bring in real salon owners to speak to students. “I think it would be very impactful. When people enroll in beauty school, they think ‘I love to do hair and nails.’ But when you bring in a professional who's been out in the real world to tell you about all you can achieve and all of the different aspects of the industry you can get into, then you think ‘I have options.’”
One challenge at MCPS is the students are teenagers and may not take a career in beauty seriously at first. Plus, they are effectively attending beauty school for free (since it’s part of a public high school’s program), so they may not necessarily be motivated. The Edison instructor whose classes Dunbar spoke in front of encouraged her students to stay focused by requiring them to take notes, with the warning that a test of Dunbar’s covered material was scheduled for the next day. Dunbar says, “The instructor texted me yesterday and said my talk was all they were talking about. She said we should have done this a long time ago.”
Dunbar also encourages instructors to take each class on a field trip to a salon. Students from Patterson High School have spent a full day shadowing in her salon, observing all of the nuances of salon life.
Dunbar plans to go back to speak to the same class at Edison later in the year to dispense more advise. “It’s great to sow those seeds,” she says.
Who’s been the best outside speaker you’ve brought into your classroom? Share your response in the comments.