Ironwood Ridge High School Teacher and Pueblo Del Sol Teacher Win 2016 Ed Eisele Excellence in Economics Education Award

Dec. 5, 2016
Ironwood Ridge High School Teacher and Pueblo Del Sol Teacher Win 2016 Ed Eisele Excellence in Economics Education Award

TUCSON, Ariz. – December 5, 2016 – Two southern Arizona teachers were recognized on November 30 with the prestigious 2016 Ed Eisele Excellence in Economics Education Award during an intimate dinner at the Mountain Oyster Club in Tucson.

Mandi Hering, an AP economics teacher at Tucson’s Ironwood Ridge High School, and Kristina Rose-Holston, a second-grade teacher at Sierra Vista’s Pueblo Del Sol Elementary School, were presented awards during a special dinner hosted by the Thomas R. Brown Foundation.

The awards were open to K-12 teachers in Pima, Cochise, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Graham, Greenlee and Yuma counties. The special honor recognizes educators for their skill, creativity and impact on students through economic education. Both teachers received a $5,000 check in addition to their award. The University of Arizona Eller College of Management’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship provided the awards with support from Eller’s Office of Economic Education.

Charity-Joy Acchiardo, Eller Director of the Office of Economic Education, said both teachers are passionate about helping their students understand both basic and complex economics principles.

“Mandi and Kristina tackle complex economic concepts with very creative, easy-to-grasp, tangible examples that resonate with their students,” Acchiardo said. “Their unique teaching styles and dedication to helping their students succeed are commendable.”

Sharing a Passion for Economics

The honor is especially meaningful for Mandi Hering, particularly because teaching economics was not on her radar when she was planning her career.

“I avoided economics in college, thinking it was too technical with too much math,” Hering said. “I started off teaching U.S. history and government, but in 2007, I started taking workshops through the Thomas R. Brown Foundation and realized that economics is everywhere.”

As her passion for economics grew, Hering went on to complete more than 245 hours of professional development in economic education through the UA Office of Economic Education/ Thomas R. Brown Foundation. She also earned a Norton School graduate certificate in economics education, graduating with a 4.0 GPA.

Today, she teaches economics to four classes per day at Ironwood Ridge High School, averaging 36 students per class, and one section of AP Economics classes, where she teaches both Micro and Macro Economics.

“Teaching is often taken for granted,” Hering said. “I do it because I love it.”

An Arizona Teaching Fellow and Master Teacher Workshop Presenter, Hering takes pride in teaching students in the same school district where she attended school, graduating from Canyon del Oro High School.

Creativity is a big part of Hering’s approach to teaching economics.

“Many times I will start a lesson with music, and I also take visual aides to a new level,” she said, sharing that she has worn themed T-shirts featuring prominent economists including Hayek, Keynes and Marx. In addition, she has started lessons playing popular songs such as the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)”.

Her enthusiasm for economics not only engages students, it helps them understand complex lessons. Last year, 100 percent of her students earned a score of four or higher in the AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics exams.

“It’s very rewarding to see my students succeed,” she said. “I also learned last year from the College Board that one of my students not only earned a five on the AP Micro exam, but he, along with just 53 other students in the world, earned every point possible on the exam.”

Choreographing Economic Lessons

Second grade students attending Kristina Rose-Holston’s class at Pueblo Del Sol Elementary School in Sierra Vista may be too young to realize it, but from the first day they set foot in her classroom, they become part of a well-choreographed story, where the central theme is an economy, and they are the main characters whose behavior and academic progress affect the plot.

“Every student in my class has a bank,” said Rose-Holston. “Students earn money for displaying positive behavior and meeting academic goals. They can also lose money for making inappropriate choices, like not completing work or disrupting classmates.”

Every Friday, students complete a bank statement detailing their account balances and how they chose to spend their money at the class store. Students can purchase snacks, special school supplies, or coupons for classroom privileges. They also can choose to save their money to purchase more expensive items.

“I tell my students that school is their job. Their choices and actions have economic consequences, just like in the real world,” she said.

A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Rose-Holston doesn’t stop there. When her district was forced to cut music teachers due to budget constraints, she started writing her own musicals for the students featuring popular songs with made-up lyrics relating to economic concepts.

At the end of the school year, her class creates an original movie highlighting their economic standards. Friends and families are invited to enjoy the movie premiere during a paper red-carpet night featuring popcorn and paparazzi.

“It’s a big project for the kids, and we spend a lot of time learning our lines and practicing our songs,” Rose-Holston said of her 24 students, including some ESL students. “We film for two full days and it takes me a few weeks to edit the movie.”

Using her family Sony video camera, Rose-Holston takes the time to create scrolling text for the songs so people can read the words.

“I use green fabric from Walmart for my green screen, and then I also burn DVDs for every family,” she said, adding that her husband, Chris, helps her with some of the editing.

While her approach to teaching economics is unconventional and requires many extra hours of work, she knows it is a worthwhile project for the kids.

“The families in Sierra Vista have been so encouraging, and now our biggest challenge is making sure we have a large enough venue. When I first started the movies, we were in my classroom. Then we moved to library, and now we show it in the cafeteria,” she said.

Her creative approach to teaching economics has paid off, as test scores have improved. Last year, the class average on the economics assessment was 90 percent, and she is seeing more families involved in their child’s education.

Top photo of Kristina Rose-Holston, Charity-Joy Acchiardo, and Mandi Hering by Thomas Veneklasen.