Last month, more than 60 K-12 educators throughout Delaware got a jump start on the upcoming school year by enhancing their economics teaching expertise at the fourth annual University of Delaware CEEE Economic Education Conference, hosted by UD’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.
The CEEE provides Delaware educators with tools to help students gain solid economic knowledge and skills needed to foster sound financial decision making. Returning as a virtual offering, the all-day conference was just one part of CEEE’s year-long schedule that includes professional development opportunities and student competitions which, when combined, affect the learning experiences of more than 100,000 students across the state each year.
During the conference, the teachers, who include economics in their elementary, social studies or business classes, were provided with a unique professional learning opportunity, re-designed this year to offer independent grade-level tracks (elementary, middle and high school) covering tips and innovative interactive exercises. Attendees could choose from among any of 12 concurrent and plenary sessions.
“Our mission is to prepare K-12 educators and students in economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship by providing dynamic, effective and standards-based professional learning resources and programs and that’s exactly what we’re doing here with you today,” said Carlos Asarta, the CEEE’s James B. O’Neill Director. “I know that, ultimately, we all want to see our students graduate as economically and financially literate citizens,” he added.
Both CEEE content experts and other master teachers, most of whom were graduates of the UD’s Masters of Arts in Economics and Entrepreneurship for Educators (MAEEE) program, led the day’s professional learning.
Each session modeled interactive presentations to engage teachers who could then, in turn, effectively engage their own students. The middle and high school tracks included topics such as Chalk-and-Talk & Student – Engagement Strategies in Economics, Micro and Macro for Middle, Redlining: How Does Where You Live Influence How You Live, and Innovation Cycles and Creative Destruction. Elementary tracks included Little Learners to Big Earners and Economics for the Elementary Grades – You Must Be Kidding!!, the latter coaching teachers on why they should and how they can fit essential and culturally-relevant economics and personal finance content into their instruction. Many sessions addressed how to make lessons more inclusive for students of color and how to adjust the curriculum and have it increase in complexity as grade levels progress.
“I think that the purpose of the conference is twofold. We want teachers to not only leave energized about teaching economics at all grade levels but also to be armed with new ideas and lessons to use in the classroom,” said Bonnie Meszaros, associate director of the CEEE.
Meszaros said the conference success is directly tied to the CEEE’s reputation for providing quality programming for teachers in Delaware.
After a morning of concurrent sessions, participants enjoyed a mid-day keynote address given by Luke Tilley, chief economist and head of asset allocation and quantitative services at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors, a wealth and institutional services subsidiary of M&T Bank.
Using concrete illustrations and easily understandable language, Tilley explained economic concepts using current headlines, giving teachers the background and confidence needed to explain this news to students so that they could better understand the economic issues that affect their financial lives. He spoke about inflation, shifting supply and demand in a post-COVID world, a shortage of labor, decline in wages, housing issues, and speculation about stocks and bonds.
Tilley offered that, despite factors pointing to an economic global slowdown of growth, he does not think that a recession is inevitable in the United States. Explaining that Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, is expected to continue its current trajectory of 2 percent growth, Tilley pointed to pent-up demand and consumers’ desire to get back to spending more money on discretionary services such as restaurants, movies, vacations, and other leisure activities.
Current spending, he noted, represents a significant increase over pre-pandemic spending and is likely tied to the distribution of government stimulus checks. He did qualify his projection, however, saying that if the country were to see another significant wave of COVID that could certainly affect that trajectory.
Awarding Excellence in the Classroom
Kylee Holliday, an economics, civics, and U.S. history teacher at Alexis I. duPont High School (AIHS), was celebrated at the conference as the 2022 Bonnie T. Meszaros Educator of The Year, recognized for her work in increasing economics education for the Red Clay School District.
The award is given in honor of the life-long work that Meszaros has committed to enhancing Delaware economic education. It is presented each year to a teacher who has demonstrated a sustained commitment to the field. Nominees are evaluated on their classroom teaching and on their contribution to economic education program development.
Holliday, who got her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from UD and completed her MAEEE degree in 2021, added a financial literacy unit to her own ninth-grade economics course.
She also provided professional development in financial education to teachers in her school and others throughout her district. As a direct result, financial literacy courses were added at The John Dickinson School, and at Thomas McKean and A.I. duPont High Schools. Holliday also received the 2022 Red Clay School District Teacher of The Year award, having been recognized for working tirelessly for students and being a great representative for her colleagues.
“I saw a huge need for my students to be able to learn real-life skills that they could use and take with them,” Holliday said when explaining what inspired her to approach school leaders with the idea of expanding economic education. She credited the idea to her time spent at UD, saying that she was a better educator because of her MAEEE experience.
She concluded her acceptance remarks by noting that teachers have a very tough job, but was quick to follow up, emphasizing that it was a very important one.
“It’s extremely evident that there’s a strong desire from both students and the greater community that we continue to help promote and build financial literacy within Delaware schools.”