New CEEE members bring fresh perspectives to economics and personal finance education

Sarah Johnson and Amy Krzyzanowski are CEEE's new instructional designers.

University of Delaware alumnae Sarah Johnson and Amy Krzyzanowski, who both earned their Master of Arts for Economics and Entrepreneurship for Educators (MAEEE) in 2021 from the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, know how personal finance education can be perceived as difficult to teach. In reality, however, this material tends to be relevant and interesting for K-12 students.

“Economics and personal finance, when taught with the right methods, are some of the most fun subjects to teach and learn,” said Sarah Johnson, who used to teach economics for 10th through 12th grade at Howard High School.

Johnson and Krzyzanowski have joined the Lerner College’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) this year as instructional designers. The CEEE has been making a difference in K-12 economic and financial education in the state of Delaware for more than 50 years.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Sarah and Amy to our team,” said Carlos Asarta, professor of economics and James B. O’Neill Director of CEEE. “Both bring a tremendous amount of educational experience in the K-12 space, deep technical knowledge, and passion for helping educators and students succeed.”

As new members, Johnson and Krzyzanowski are tasked with helping CEEE better understand, prepare and support the needs of Delaware teachers by providing dynamic resources and programs to aid professional learning.

“I think Amy and I have really focused a lot on providing teachers with tools that they can immediately take back to their classrooms and use,” said Johnson.

Krzyzanowski, who used to teach 9th through 12th grade social studies at Delaware Military Academy, noted how “our personal classroom experiences have created a position for us to share resources and knowledge with other teachers who are now in the spots we were once in.”

This experience has allowed Johnson and Krzyzanowski to come up with strategies for fellow teachers to improve student knowledge and engagement. They are working to train teachers to implement a revised curriculum, which centers around incorporating more opportunities for inclusivity and cultural responsiveness.

“We’re both trying to focus on pushing our curriculum to be more inclusive and to be more culturally responsive so that every economics student can see themselves in their lessons,” said Johnson. “I think we’re going to be spending a lot of time doing that.”

One example of this push comes from a 3rd-grade classroom’s curriculum, which is collaborating with Paleteria Y Neveria Tocumbo, a Mexican ice cream shop. With this collaboration, Johnson and Krzyzanowski aim to show teachers how to incorporate lessons relating to backgrounds and cultures that children may not get as much exposure to in the everyday classroom. 

“There are so many amazing people in the community that we can reach out to and connect with and incorporate them into lessons,” said Krzyzanowski. “I just think it makes the content all that much more relevant and fun for kids to learn which makes it enjoyable for teachers to teach.”

Ideas such as collaborations with local small businesses can help teachers show their students how limitless the possibilities are when it comes to economic education, and how they can carry these resources and knowledge beyond the classroom.

According to Johnson and Krzyzanowski, it is important to provide teachers with ongoing support, whether the curriculum is changing or staying the same. 

“I think there’s a new emphasis on economics education at the elementary level that we’re really excited to help teachers navigate,” said Johnson. “We understand the incredible demands on the time of elementary teachers, and if we can take some of the workload off their shoulders for planning and creating engaging lessons for their students…I feel that that’s really a valuable contribution of the center to Delaware economic education.”

With these new and refreshing ideas, Johnson and Krzyzanowski can hopefully impact a wider range of students. Their work depicts an ambition for growth in the CEEE, and how the center’s addition of more professionals can aid teachers and, in turn, students.

“You can have a great idea for a lesson but if a teacher can’t implement it in the classroom, then it’s worthless,” said Johnson.

Krzyzanowski also went on to explain how economics teachers can sometimes be “on an island of their own,” in the sense that they are somewhat isolated from other teachers in different subjects, specifically in high school education where there may only be one economics teacher in the building.

This fall, Johnson and Krzyzanowski introduced a new mini conference for Delaware K-12 teachers, called Econ-O-Ween, which was held on October 28. There, Delaware K-12 social studies teachers came together to participate in workshops meant to bolster their economic teaching skills. The mini conference was provided as a shorter alternative to the annual July conference which is also held on-campus each year.

“At our mini conference, we just tried to incorporate as many hands-on and engaging activities for the teachers but still give them good tools and information to take back to their classrooms,” said Johnson. 

Through organizing these types of events, Johnson and Krzyzanowski hope to bring a community of teachers together and guide them with guest speakers and experts on topics in economic education. As new CEEE members, they also expressed their excitement to be able to work for the CEEE– a center that helped them so much back in their own teaching days.

“I always liked the sense of camaraderie that CEEE sessions offered,” said Krzyzanowski. I think it’s an opportunity for teachers with a shared passion for economic education to actually be able to come together and share ideas and best practices.”

By combining creative, hands-on activities with CEEE professional learning, Johnson and Krzyzanowski aim to contribute to a well-established center culture that continually welcomes teachers, both new and experienced, and encourages them to try new strategies and promote enthusiasm for teaching economics to students. Krzyzanowski in particular has been regularly engaging with the CEEE for more than a decade.

“I was a benefactor of the center for 14 years of teaching,” said Krzyzanowski. “I came to workshops, went through the master’s program, and I can one hundred percent say I would have dropped out of the teaching career within a few years if I didn’t have the support of the center.”

This first hand experience of teaching and being a part of the center herself has given Krzyzanowski a unique position in which she can now do the same for other teachers who are in the position she was once in.

“I know what the center can do,” said Krzyzanowski. “I know what it’s capable of, I’ve been on the receiving end, I wholeheartedly support what they do.”

The CEEE is excited to welcome Johnson and Krzyzanowski at a time that coincides with the transitioning role of its former associate director Bonnie Meszaros who recently retired from full time work but remains involved as a part-time elementary school program coordinator. Both Johnson and Krzyzanowski acknowledged the dedication and work Meszaros has put into the CEEE and the lasting legacy she leaves. Along with her extensive work for the center, Meszaros was also a past president of the National Association of Economic Educators, as well as an inductee into the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame.

Krzyzanowski joked how her and Johnson’s hiring have been an attempt to fill “half of one of Bonnie’s shoes,” as she has done so much for economic and personal finance education in Delaware.

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