It is often said that financial and economic education is a powerful tool to break down societal barriers. Inspired to make positive changes at this time of heightened social unrest, Arizona Council on Economic Education (ACEE) and Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC) brought educators and business leaders together recently to uncover opportunities to support students from low income families across the Grand Canyon State.
“Teaching for Economic Equity” was the first in a series of six conversations exploring the economics of race, entrepreneurship, and income inequality.
Summer Faussette, ACEE board member and External Affairs Market Manager at Comerica Bank, and Dick Foreman, President of ABEC, moderated the panel with three teachers from Title I schools, representing a remarkably diverse population from the valley of Phoenix to northern Arizona, on the teachers’ best practices, past experiences, and challenges working with underserved students.
Elena Zee, President and CEO of ACEE expressed the importance of giving teachers a voice: “we want the community to hear the voices from teachers who work with underserved students every day to raise the awareness of giving all children access to financial and economic education to achieve economic equity.”
Middle school teacher Julia Wright remembers learning a valuable lesson as a teacher when she unknowingly paired a student living in a foster group home with the child of the owner of a multi-million-dollar company.
While the students were successful in their assignment, this experience taught her that disparity in the classroom is real and teachers must not assume that all students have had the same life experiences.
A recurring theme expressed by the teachers was the need to make students feel validated and important regardless of their race or family income.
High school teacher Danielle Bonfig from northern Arizona believes that being “culturally responsive, having approachable content… and validating student’s existence” is one of the most important contributing factors to student success.
Serving many students from the Navajo Indian Reservation, Bonfig modifies her financial and economic education lessons to include examples that relate to life on the reservation.
Arizona Economic Education Teacher of the Year Jaime Leverington reminded participants that the current pandemic has hit some student’s families harder than others. Leverington shared stories of students whose families have lost their income due to the pandemic, while others are not only adjusting to remote learning but also are caring for younger siblings learning from home while their parents are working to provide for the family.
Leverington stressed the importance of “making sure to listen to students. When one wants to talk to me outside of class, I need to stop whatever I am doing and make them feel valued.”
To learn more about this webinar series, please visit: www.azecon.org