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Two local women are finalists for $10K ‘bonus’ in Know Your Value competition

When Joanna Schwartz saw two second-grade teachers got into a fistfight in the school hallway over a noisy classroom she knew she had to do something.

“Look at teachers. You know how they’re burning out. School District of Philadelphia is hemorrhaging teachers. They can't keep hold of them,” Schwartz explained. “So I asked myself, ‘What do teachers need?’”

Schwartz, 36, who worked as a teacher for about seven years — five in the School District of Philadelphia — is now a trained holistic counselor created a training package, “Toolbox for Teachers,” to help teachers cope what she calls the “toxic stress” and “vicarious trauma” that urban teachers often encounter.

She also could be in for a $10,000 ‘bonus’ award as part of MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski’s “Know Your Value” contest, which kicks off in Philadelphia April 10.

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Brzezinski, co-host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, is the author of “Knowing Your Value” — a business book about how women can get ahead. She launched the “Know Your Value” contest, in which women submit 60-second videos explaining why they deserve a $10,000 ‘bonus.’ The finalists were announced Thursday.

Schwartz, of Passyunk Square, is one of three selected finalists who will get considered for the bonus. A working family-based counselor, she said the money would not technically be a “bonus,” but funds to help her launch her teacher-training business.

“I never have time or money to work on Toolbox for Teachers, but I think it could help a lot of people,” she said. “You're setting the climate in your classroom by your attitude each day. … They need to learn how to work with the population, this very traumatized population.”

Ashton Sweitzer, of Lancaster County, is another finalist, who is also hoping to jump-start her business.

“I have only been open for three years, I'm 25, and I work really hard for not a lot of revenue, because you know, when you start a business, all my money goes back into the business,” Sweitzer explained.

Sweitzer operates Glitz, a boutique shop in Lititz, Pa. that sells women's accessories, scarves, bags, candles, jewelry, as well as customized, personalized and monogrammed goods. She opened the shop three weeks after graduating college.

“The more I can invest in my business, the better I can serve my community,” she said.

The third finalist, who will be judged by Brzezinski and other notable women from the world of business and media, is Denise Uzzelle of Texas.

The competition will take place April 10 at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. This is the first scheduled “Know Your Value” event and others are set to take place around the country over the following year. For more information and tickets, visit msnbc.com/knowyourvalue.

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