2:30 p.m., Aug. 5, 2010----Twenty-four educators from across the U.S., China and the Philippines last week completed the second of two summer sessions leading up to a University of Delaware master's degree in economics and entrepreneurship for educators, a program designed to strengthen the economic, financial and entrepreneurial content of instruction at the primary and secondary school level.
James O'Neill, professor of economics and director of the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, said the program, which also explores methods of providing greater opportunity for interdisciplinary work in math, science and social studies, continues to maintain popularity.
The four-part program includes summer courses in basic economic concepts, financial education, strategies for entrepreneurship and economic teaching strategies, money and banking, international trade, micro/macro applications and a curriculum seminar with continued emphasis on entrepreneurship and workshop organization and delivery.
During the school year between the sessions, the educators will develop an economic education implementation design including entrepreneurship and take courses in economics, entrepreneurship and education or transfer credit hours that they have previously earned in those subjects.
Educators discuss program
Jia Liu, a fifth grade English teacher at Peking University Primary School in Beijing said the program will help her create the very first economic curriculum in China. “There is currently no elementary or high school economics curriculum in China,” Liu said. “It is only available as a major at the university level. So I plan to work with others in this program to write the first economic curriculum.”
One such collaborator is Sherrie Burke, also a fifth grade teacher, from Westlake Hills Elementary School in Westlake Village, Calif. “My class does web conferencing with other schools in Indiana and Delaware so the students can share their experiences with one another,” she said. “I've met great contacts through the program and plan to collaborate with Jai Liu's school in Beijing.”
April Higgins, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Skyline Middle School in Wilmington, Del., plans to apply what she learned by creating workshops for use in the classroom by fellow teachers to meet Delaware standards. “The program has definitely increased my knowledge of economic concepts,” said Higgins. “Overall, it has been a very positive experience.”
Mark Bradley of Pinelands Regional High School in Little Egg Harbor, N.J.; Scott Heinecke of Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo, Calif.; Ann Scharfenberg of New Richmond High School in Wis.; and Mary Chowenhill of Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla., also had positive feedback on participating in the program.
“The program has increased my depth of knowledge in economics, given me an idea of the expanding role of the economy at the county and state levels, and broadened the horizon of the impact we can all have,” said Bradley.
“This is something I can't get back home,” Heinecke said. “The program has been an amazing experience. It has increased my personal knowledge and ideas, and exposed me to additional economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship concepts.”
Scharfenberg felt the program also helped to develop the participants' leadership skills as educators. “The program has taught us how to share what we do with other teachers, and the ways to learn from others have been invaluable,” said Scharfenberg. “Even with a strong content background, we have all learned, grown a more in-depth perspective, and will be more effective with students upon returning to the classroom.”
Chowenhill agreed that although many of the educators have solid backgrounds in economics, there was room for growth. “Until I got here, I didn't know how much I didn't know,” she said. “The program has been amazing, and what makes it so is that we've been given the opportunity to apply what we're learning. We have done workshops, shared ideas and learned about approaching stakeholders.”
Travel, leadership cited
The summer session included visits by the educators to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“The best part of the program was the Washington, D.C., trip where we met with public policy groups and heard their perspectives on the economic concepts we learned in the program,” said Crystal Gildea, who teaches modern problems, sociology and public policy at Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn. “We also visited the World Bank, the Heritage Foundation and other think-tanks, and it was really a great hands-on, practical application.”
The educators received instruction and support from O'Neill; James Butkiewicz, associate chairperson and professor of economics; Bonnie Meszaros, associate director of CEEE; Michael Arnold, associate professor of economics; and Barbara Emery, program coordinator at CEEE.
Maureen Greenly of Stanton Middle School in Wilmington, Del. was impressed with the instruction. “It has been great to be immersed in these courses, and the professors have been incredible,” said Greenly. “I've gained economic knowledge and concepts that I can bring back to other middle school teachers to help support economic standards for the state. Many educators are only elementary certified, so a program like this can really add to their content knowledge.”
“The leadership of the program is amazing,” said Jerry Lozier of Duncanville High School in Duncanville, Texas. “O'Neill, Butkiewicz, Arnold -- they all had significant content knowledge and advocated the strengths and benefits of the program. There is a good core of educators here, and we've been given the opportunity to return home and be ambassadors of economic entrepreneurship.”
“The financial supporters of the program should also realize their return on investment,” said Lozier. “The teachers here are inspired to see where we can go and the knowledge we can share. We are all involved in different ways -- as state council members, student aides, community activists -- and we can share a vision from this experience that goes beyond talking with other teachers in our own schools.”
Sandy Clevenstine of Appoquinimink High School in Middletown, Del. was also grateful for the foundations that support the program. “The funding offered by the foundations was one of the most amazing things about this program. Their generosity opened the doors for me to be able to attend,” said Clevenstine. “It has been great working with such a diverse group, too. The playing field is leveled because we are all studying economics and entrepreneurship, but there are teachers here from elementary, middle and high schools who have shared the unique issues they face and that develops a mutual understanding among us.”
The program is and has been supported by an endowment fund and generous sponsorship by the John Templeton Foundation, CTW Foundation Inc., NFIB Young Entrepreneurs Foundation, Bank of America, Foundation for Teaching Economics, the National Council on Economics Education and the Kenrose Kitchen Table Foundation.
The CEEE is affiliated with the National Council on Economic Education and its EconomicsAmerica Program and Network, which aims to develop meaningful economic education and entrepreneurship programs around the world and to establish a network of educators who can help instruct teachers in effective methods of teaching economics and entrepreneurship in elementary and secondary schools.
Article and photo by Kathryn A. Marrone