Teacher Spotlight: Jennifer Antrim

2014.11.07 Teacher Spotlight - Jen Antrim2Our Spotlight series continues this week, where we talk with teachers who are making a difference in the field of economic education.

In today’s installment, we’re talking with Jennifer Antrim, who teaches with the Scottsdale Unified School District’s eLearning Department in Arizona.  She teaches American/Arizona government, economics, and American/Arizona history, including AP courses.

Here is what she had to say:

How long have you been teaching economics?  What do you love most about it?

I’ve been teaching Economics for five years, both in the classroom and online. Compared to the other social studies courses I teach, I really enjoy the logical nature of Economics. We can collect and use data in a meaningful way, make observations, come up with theories, and then take all of that a step further and try to apply it to human behavior and choices. Personally, I like being able to quantify stuff that in real life can be really complicated, and I’ve found that a lot of students do too. When you take a concept like ‘demand’ and break it down into data sets and graphs and use it to make predictions, it seems to click. Using simplified models for big concepts is a great way to start learning something new.

What are your biggest challenges in teaching economics?

One of my biggest challenges in teaching economics is that I feel like I never have enough time! Our economics course is only a semester long, which gives us a great start in basic economic principles and personal finance… but it’s such a big topic, I always wish I had more time to fit more in!

(Interview continues below the picture)

2014.11.07 Teacher Spotlight - Jen Antrim1You teach in an online environment.  Because you don’t have traditional face-to-face interaction, do you have specific strategies or resources that you use to help your students understand economic content?

There are a TON of great resources out there for both interacting with students and for interactive tools. In my “classroom” picture above, you can see a virtual meeting with webcams and a white board, which I can use to meet with students one on one, or in small groups. This particular tool is called Big Marker and is free to use. I’ve also used Google hangouts and, of course, the telephone to work with my students on a daily basis. In terms of resources, the SF Fed has some awesome stuff for educators, like DataPost presentations, which work really well as supporting material when students are learning new concepts. I also use EconEdLink for interactives that help reinforce student learning. If you haven’t checked out their Virtual Economics series, it is well worth a look!

You’re currently serving on the SF Fed Educational Advisory Group (EAG).  How has the experience changed your teaching and/or your professional development?

Participating on the EAG has really given me an opportunity to network with other teachers to share ideas and ask questions. I’ve also been motivated to expand my professional development by taking my first graduate level economics course. This year, I will also be presenting some great resources from the SF Fed’s most recent Meet the Experts event to colleagues in my district at one of our upcoming in-services.

What economics education project or topic are you working on that excites you?  Why?

Right now, I’m working on some lessons tying economic data to case studies in American History. When I started teaching, I was in an 8th grade social studies classroom, where I worked really hard to integrate history, government, and economics, rather than studying them in isolation. Kevin Lansing, who presented on asset bubbles at this year’s Meet the Experts, gave me the idea to use economic data to illustrate cause and effect relationships in episodes of American History, and I’m excited to come up with more lessons and examples that my peers can take back to the classroom.

What has been a recent impactful experience that involves your students and economics education?

In online learning, my moments of impact seem really small, but each one renews my commitment to teaching a little bit more. I talk on the phone with my students often, and it’s a great opportunity to diagnose where a student is having trouble understanding a concept. It’s always a great feeling when a student and I pinpoint an area of misunderstanding that is keeping that student from moving forward. That “ooooohhhh… okay, I totally get it now!” moment always makes me smile.

What advice would you give you teachers (of any subject) who would like to insert more economics into their lessons but aren’t sure where to start?

I would advise teachers to look into economic data as a great place to start. There is a wealth of quantitative information that any classroom teacher can integrate. History teachers can use data on unemployment to study the severity of the Great Depression. Math teachers can use any economic data for practice in graphing and calculations. Government teachers can use macroeconomic data in discussions on public policy. Even English teachers can use economic data and articles to support students in practicing technical reading and writing in line with Common Core.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experiences teaching economics?

Just that it’s a super practical area of study and at the very least, every student should understand things that affect them in real life, like personal finance, taxes, and the role of the government and the central bank in their daily lives and long-term decision-making. Economics is not a throw-away topic, but one of subjects we study that is most applicable to our experiences in the real world.

Thanks for talking with us, Jennifer!

And in case you missed it, check out previous posts in the series:
Amy Evers of Clark High School (Las Vegas, NV)
Cheryl Shea of Pinnacle High School (Phoenix, AZ)
Stan Herder of Hawaii Baptist Academy (Honolulu, HI)
Jonnie Fenton of Hanford High School (Richland, WA)
Greg Blandino of Monte Vista High School (Danville, CA)

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