2021 Delaware Economic Educators Conference

Economic Educator of the year photo

For five decades, the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) has been a leader in the economic education space, providing innovative programming that has influenced the way educators teach economics and entrepreneurship in classrooms nationwide.

“This year is a special year, it is our 50th Anniversary at the Center,” said CEEE Director Carlos Asarta. “While we’ve been doing this for 50 years, our mission has not changed. The mission has always been to prepare K-12 educators and their students; to properly outfit them with the resources they need to teach economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship, with the ultimate goal of seeing their students graduate economically and financially literate so they can change their own world and the world around them.”

This work continued during the third annual CEEE Economic Education Conference, held virtually this summer. This K-12 conference, the first of its kind in Delaware, welcomed elementary and social studies teachers, school and district department chairs and administrators from across all three counties in Delaware, along with members of the new UD Master of Arts in Economics and Entrepreneurship for Educators (MAEEE) cohort.

“I am very aware of the importance of economics in our students’ education. We really see economics as the foundation of any program, any major in business,” said Lerner College Dean Bruce Weber during his welcoming remarks at the conference.

I think the benefits of us [the Lerner College] being a leading college for, not just training future economists, but also educators to cover economic issues is a tremendous differentiator for us,” he continued. “I’m really pleased and proud of what the CEEE does for our students and for the teachers of the world that are introducing economics to students at earlier ages.”

At the conference, educators participated in several concurrent virtual sessions led by regional education experts and master teachers. These sessions covered topics related to each of the Delaware Economics Standards including microeconomics, macroeconomics, systems and trade. Educators left the conference with free teaching resources and ready-to-go lesson plans, along with the confidence needed to deliver them effectively in their classrooms—virtual or otherwise. The event also featured a keynote address by Rhea Thomas, senior economist for Wilmington Trust, and the presentation of the Bonnie T. Meszaros Economic Educator of the Year Award.

Teaching Economics in the Pandemic Economy

Economic educators have the unique challenge of teaching a subject that is ever-changing and evolving. In her keynote address, Thomas gave insights into how the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the economy, as well as sharing ways for attendees to integrate these changes into existing lessons within their curriculum.

“This is a really interesting time to be in the field of economics because it has really illustrated in very clear terms, more so than any other topic during my time in the field, the impacts of shifts in supply and demand and their importance in everyday life in terms of economics,” Thomas said.

Throughout her address, Thomas discussed real-life examples of supply and demand changes, and the impact of these changes on peoples’ everyday lives. She gave an overview on the outlook of GDP, inflation, consumer spending, monetary policy, fiscal policy and more. With each of these high-level projections, Thomas provided practical examples that the educators could use to better illustrate these concepts in a way that their students could more easily relate to and comprehend.

“I thank you for your work in educating the next generation, particularly in the field of economics,” Thomas said. “It’s really exciting to me that more people might actually know what an economist does because usually I get sort of a furrowing of eyebrows. People seem to know what an economist is but they don’t quite know what they do.”

At the end of the keynote address, there was an active question-and-answer session where attendees engaged Thomas to dive deeper into the effects of economic stimulus, the GDP and ways to engage students with these important economic concepts.

Curriculum Development Through Workshops

During four virtual sessions scheduled throughout the day, attendees were offered opportunities to choose from among five unique professional development workshops led by regional education experts and master teachers. These sessions covered various topics including saving the environment with economic ideas, Alexander Hamilton and the First National Bank of the United States and economics in the news.

“I have been to so many conferences, both in person and remote, where the presenters clearly know what they are talking about, but have little to no understanding of how to make it relevant to teachers,” said Michael Glazier, UD Class of ‘98, a social studies teacher at Springer Middle School.  “This was not the case with this conference.  All of the sessions seemed to be geared towards me and offered ideas on how to present complex information in a way that my students can understand.”

Throughout the day, attendees were encouraged to share ideas and experiences from their own classrooms with one another, growing their professional networks and allowing for ample collaboration.

“I really appreciated the chance for teachers to share best practices and to discuss new developments in micro and macroeconomics,” said Staci Garber, UD MAEEE Class of ‘05, a social studies teacher at Kirk Middle School. “I would definitely recommend the conference to others who want to improve both content knowledge and pedagogy.”

Bonnie T. Meszaros Economic Educator of the Year Award

A highlight of the conference was the presentation of the Bonnie T. Meszaros Economic Educator of the Year Award to Jennifer Baczewski from Mt. Pleasant High School. This award was created three years ago in honor of Meszaros, associate director of the CEEE, for her over 45 years of service to the CEEE and economic education in Delaware.

“Jennifer is being recognized today as one of the finest examples of commitment and contribution to economic education in the state of Delaware,” Asarta shared while presenting the award. “Every day she brings dedication, engagement and energy to the profession of education. Jennifer is one of the hardest working teachers we know, going above and beyond to increase her human capital in the field of economic education.”

This annual award recognizes one Delaware teacher who demonstrates a sustained history of commitment and contribution to economic education. The nominees are evaluated based on their teaching, professional learning and economic program development. As the honoree, Baczewski was presented with a physical award and prize of $1000 by the CEEE.

In her acceptance speech, Baczewski shared that, “I love learning economics. I love teaching economics. And I love the passion and support that the CEEE provides to the educators of this state. I believe in the mission and the vision of the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship and, because actions speak louder than words, I am donating my $1,000 prize money back to the Center.”

Conference Impact

After a full day of learning, educators left the conference with free teaching resources and lessons from the CEEE, the Federal Reserve and other experts, ready for immediate application in their classrooms. The CEEE hosts the CEEE Economic Education Conference every year to further its impact on economic education throughout Delaware

“This is an opportunity that all teachers, not just those of us that focus on economics, should attend,” Glazier said. “There are so many ways that teachers of any subject and any grade level can help students understand different topics through the use of economics that were covered at this conference. I will be attending next summer, whether in person or remotely, as there is always more to learn about the ever-changing world of economics.”

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