The University of Texas-Pan American teamed up with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the Texas Council on Economic Education to host "Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Teaching Students Economics and Personal Finance," a one-day workshop for secondary school-level educators on July 13.
During the daylong workshop, 16 high school educators representing campuses from across the Rio Grande Valley reviewed curricula that address economics and personal finance and heard a presentation on maquiladoras - manufacturing centers located in Mexican cities that border the United States - from Dr. John Sargent, a professor of management, marketing and international business at UTPA. They also discussed how they could present these concepts to their students in a way they would understand.
UTPA's College of Business Administration and College of Education collaborated with the Dallas Fed and the Texas Council on Economic Education on the workshop in hopes of helping high school-level teachers better explain economics and personal finance to their students.
"Secondary teachers are really the feeders to Pan Am," said Steven Lovell, an economics and finance lecturer at UTPA. "The students who come out of these gentlemen and ladies' classes are the ones who are later hopefully going to be Pan Am students, and the better educated they are the higher level we can start teaching here. Also, the students understanding the financial aspects makes them more responsible with their money, which increases savings and allows for more entrepreneurial investments, which helps the Valley to grow."
Organizers of the event said it is crucial to know how important it is to live within one's means and save for the future, especially now that so many Americans have been affected by the country's ailing economy.
Sherry Kiser, director of economic education of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said the Federal Reserve Bank system has 12 regions and all 12 regions have economic education programs. The Dallas Fed focuses on training secondary school-level teachers.
"We're all committed to helping people better understand economics and along with that is personal finance," Kiser said. "What we want to do is help teachers understand the basic tenets of personal finance so that they can pass that knowledge on to their students."
Learning about economics and personal finance as early as possible can help people make better decisions about their money and how to use it wisely, said Laura Ewing, president of the Texas Council for Economic Education.
But, quoting statistics from a survey the national Council for Economic Education and State Farm conducted, Ewing said only 21 states, including Texas, require students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade to take an economics course and only 13 require a course in personal finance. And less than 20 percent of teachers reported feeling competent to teach basic personal finance topics, according to that survey.
"Our responsibility is to seek staff development opportunities for teachers on economics, personal financial literacy and entrepreneurship," she said.
Educators who attended the event said they enjoyed studying more in depth concepts including budgeting, investing and managing debt. They also liked hearing from one another about their opinions on credit, investments and other related topics.
"It's been fun being around adults who think about economics," said Glenn Ramey Jr., a government and economics teacher at Sharyland High School. "The workshop has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge base a bit just through conversation."
Ramey said he really enjoyed the discussion the educators had regarding how credit scores are determined and how those scores affect people's lives. He said he plans to use some of the material presented at the workshop in his class.
"It takes a lot of effort to present complex ideas to students and simplify them," he said. "It helps us out a lot."