Lerner UD CEEE Economic Education Conference Gives Local Teachers Lessons to Use in Classrooms

The fifth 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, was held in mid-July, giving local K-12 teachers ideas and tools to use in their classrooms as the new school year approaches.

The event, which returned to an in-person format this year, was held at Lerner Hall and Kirkbride Hall on the UD campus. Teachers could participate in four sets of concurrent sessions, organized by elementary, middle and high school lesson plans, throughout the informative day.

Regional education experts and master’s teachers, most of whom were graduates of UD’s Masters of Arts in Economics and Entrepreneurship for Educators (MA-EEE) program, presented on a variety of topics, broken down into 50-minute sessions.

“The vision of the center is to train educators so that they become better at what they do in the classroom, and they have the knowledge they need to influence what their students know and how they evolve,” said Carlos Asarta, CEEE James B. O’Neill Director. “For us to be able to hold this conference, we’re not only bringing in our master’s graduates, but we’re also bringing in all our teachers from Delaware. So, it’s a great opportunity for us to teach them about economics, bring experts to talk about the economy, and then the teachers take all that information and bring it back to their classrooms to help their students understand economics better.”

The elementary school tracks included topics such as 5th Grade Economics, Sneak-a-nomics, Elementary Programs and Mini-Society, while the middle school tracks included topics like DESMOS, Designing Digital Space for Middle School Classrooms, Teaching in the Age of Crypto and Bitcoin, and Teaching the Decision Model the Pretzel Way.

A Financial Literacy Reality Fair, Ambitious Interaction, Designing Digital Escape Rooms for High School Classrooms, and Videonomics: Using Video Clips to Teach Economics and Financial Literacy were the topics in the high school tracks.

“During the school year teachers are in their classrooms and they don’t have a chance to talk with other economic educators around the state. So this is a great opportunity for them to do that, and they leave with a lot of valuable materials to use in their classrooms,” said Bonnie Meszaros, associate director of the CEEE.

After a pair of morning sessions, a keynote address was given by Luke Tilley, chief economist with Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors, Inc. of M&T Bank and a member of WTIA’s Investment Committee.

Tilley, who spoke at the conference for the second straight year, gave an address titled “If a recession fells the economy in the woods and no investors care to see it, does it make a sound?”.

Combining the 12 concurrent sessions and the hour-long keynote address, teachers left the conference equipped with the tools, knowledge and lesson plans to teach economics concepts to their students this upcoming school year. They were grateful for the opportunity to meet their fellow educators in person to discuss new and innovative ways to deliver economics education to their students.

“It’s a great opportunity for educators to be able to come to the University of Delaware and learn about all the new things that are going on in personal finance and financial literacy. It’s great for us to be able to incorporate these things in our classrooms, where it really makes a difference in the lives of our students, their families, and our communities,” Jay Davis, CTE Education Specialist in Smyrna School District, remarked.

“It’s been great to network with fellow educators throughout the country, and all the great resources we can put into the classrooms. So it’s very rewarding for us as educators to be able to attend this event.”

Amy Krzyzanowski, a former economics teacher at Delaware Military Academy who will soon be joining the CEEE staff as an instructional designer, agreed.

“This is an event I look forward to every single year,” she said. “I’m excited that it was back in person this year. There’s something about sitting in a roomful of people so excited about the same thing – economic education. There are always a solid variety of sessions to select from, to the point where I’m almost upset that I don’t have more time, because I want to be able to attend everything. So it’s tough to pick and choose. But it just speaks to the quality of the event.”

Kathleen Cusack, a UD master’s student who is also a curriculum specialist at Econiful, also discussed her excitement about meeting other economics educators in a group setting.

“It’s really invigorating to be with other professionals who are so committed to economic education, helping our students see that economics is everywhere, and that by learning economics, they’re really learning about how to make better choices that will empower them to improve their lives,” she stated.

Bethann Higley Given Bonnie T. Meszaros Economic Educator of the Year Award

Bethann Higley, a business/economics/personal finance and entrepreneurship teacher at Padua Academy, was honored at the conference as the 2023 Bonnie T. Meszaros Educator of the Year.

The award is given annually to a Delaware teacher who exemplifies the best qualities in teaching, professional learning, and economic education program development.

Currently in her seventh year at Padua, Higley integrates current events and real-world examples into her lessons, starting each class with a news headline, a question of the day or short video that is pertinent to class content, keeping her students informed about what is happening in the world around them and allowing them to make meaningful connections with the economic and business concepts to be discussed in class.

At the beginning of each year, Higley asks students write down a company they’d like to learn more about, helping her tailor lessons and use relevant examples from those companies. She has also revised Padua’s economics curriculum, making it more interactive with engaging activities and projects while incorporating a personal finance component.

“I am extremely honored to be this year’s recipient of the Bonnie T. Meszaros Educator of the Year Award,” Higley said during the award presentation at the conference. “I am truly humbled to be associated with somebody who holds so much respect. The professional development, training and support I have received from so many of you in this room have been invaluable,

“In every session I have attended, I’ve learned to teach economics concepts with activity-based lessons that engage students, allowing them to truly take ownership of the learning process. Because of your dedication and creativity, I always leave your sessions energized and equipped with ideas that I can implement immediately in my classroom. I believe students learn by doing; thank you for helping me create an active learning environment for my students. Your excellent training sessions and workshops have been key to my growth as a high school teacher.”

“I’m thrilled that Bethann is the recipient of this year’s award,” Meszaros said. “I think she reflects exactly what we’re looking for in an economic educator. She’s passionate, she cares about her students, and she’s a great example of what I think an economic educator should be.”

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