Economics Teachers Conference is ‘the greatest conference’
One of the many challenges high school business teachers face is relating a subject’s content to a variety of students.
No one knows this more than Jason Hayes, who teaches a slew of courses at Graham High School in Bluefield, Virginia. Hayes teaches accounting, management, economics and personal finance, and it can be difficult, he said, to relate the material to a classroom full of students, half of whom plan to go to college while the other half plan to enter the workforce directly out of high school.
Finding resources and methods for teaching a diverse group is one reason Hayes is a repeat attender of Radford University’s Economics Teachers Conference, which was held this year from July 25 to 26.
Now, in its third year, the conference is designed to provide Virginia middle and high school business, economics and personal finance teachers – and any other teachers who want to attend – an opportunity to explore topics in economic theory that are essential for students to learn before they enter college or begin working. Radford University’s Department of Economics, part of the Davis College of Business and Economics, hosted the conference.
Tag-team teaching the two-day conference sessions were economics faculty members and conference founders Tom Duncan, Ph.D., and Dan Farhat, Ph.D. The duo covered a variety of topics, such as analytical decision-making; how markets work; economic growth and entrepreneurship; government in economics and; new and popular this year; economics in pop culture.
The pop culture session gave Hayes numerous points to talk about with his Graham High students for the coming school year, he said.
“If we can relate the concepts they [Duncan and Farhat] taught us and expand those into lessons about, for example, government policies, it makes it more interesting for students and gets their attention long enough to add in the other information they need.”
Dee Thompson graduated from Radford University in 1982 and was a social science and secondary education major. She now teaches Advanced Placement, or AP, courses in government, psychology and micro and macroeconomics at Mountain Vista Governor’s School, a math, science and technology school that serves seven school systems between Warrenton and Winchester, Virginia.
Thompson was attracted to Radford’s Economics Teacher Conference because of its focus on teaching with technology, particularly Excel spreadsheets.
“Our school works very hard to teach across the curriculum,” she said. “The activities the teachers here have given us using Excel and other types of technology will be very beneficial to our students.”
Another conference perk, in addition to being free to the participating teachers, is they receive a certificate of completion and can receive up to 10 hours of professional development hours, which is subject to approval of their respective school administrators. Plus, they were treated to a campus tour, much to the approval of Jennifer McGinnis, who also teaches business education courses at Graham High and, like Hayes, attended the conference for a second consecutive year.
“They take good care of us here,” McGinnis said. “We get great hands-on experiences that we can take back to our students. Plus, with the tour, we got to see all the good things that are happening here at Radford. The resources, the library, the cafeteria are all wonderful. That’s something we will tell our students about.”
Duncan and Farhat began offering the conference as a means to positively impact teachers and provide them with the tools and activities to effectively prepare their students for whatever their futures may hold. Their experiences with teacher needs go back to their childhoods.
“My mom and Dan’s mom were both teachers, and we know they struggled to find activities. We hope this conference can help teachers in those areas,” Duncan said. “Plus, many teachers have to pay for items for activities out-of-pocket. So providing materials for free is a great help and something we’re happy to do.”
Hayes had high praise for the conference and its founders after attending his second year in a row.
“It’s the greatest conference I’ve attended,” he said. “It’s fun and engaging and informative. The teachers taught us ideas that I can take back to my class and relate to my students of various backgrounds and goals.”