Hinsdale South Teacher Garners Award for Economic Education
Jeff Waterman receives 3M Stars in the Classroom award for teaching sound economic practices and financial responsibility to high school students.
For the last 60 years, Econ Illinois has been dedicated to enhancing economic education and understanding for students in grades K-12. For more than ten years they have partnered with the Minnesota-based technology design firm 3M to recognize teachers across the state who incorporate strong economic programs in their classroom.
The 3M Star in the Classroom award is given to ten teachers statewide each year and among the 2010 recipients was Hinsdale South social studies teacher Jeff Waterman.
"This award reaffirms my belief in the validity of the tools supplied by Econ Illinois and the validity that I'm teaching it properly," said Waterman.
Beth Metzler, vice president for programs and partnerships with Econ Illinois said that the nonprofit has found that the best way to educate children and teens on economics is to work through the teachers.
"If a teacher is trained well, they will share that knowledge with their students for years to come," she said. "There is an exponentially positive affect when working with teachers."
Teachers are selected for the award based on the involvement they have with Econ Illinois programs and from the results in the classroom. Econ Illinois is affiliated with Northern Illinois University and has centers located at various colleges and universities through out the state.
Among the many programs and tools administered by Econ Illinois is the Stock Market Game, in which students at different grade levels are given a hypothetical $100,000 which is then invested into the market and measured by real-time market returns.
Another program is the Economics Challenge, an economic trivia game with a state competition.
Waterman and Metzler both agreed that while education in economics and personal finance are always important, the current state of the economy, increased financial pressures and increased ways to spend money make it more relevant than ever.
"It's more important now than at anytime in history," said Waterman. "Federal and state governments can't balance budgets, spending is out of control … every student should have a background in economics now."
In addition to the Econ Illinois programs, Waterman also brings some real world experience to students in his after school Investment Club.
Waterman had a very successful career with South Holland Trust and Savings Bank for seven years, before they were acquired by MB Financial. At that time Waterman had a non-compete agreement and said it was a great way to transition into education, which he always wanted to do.
"It's been a great pleasure [to work at Hinsdale South] and it is a very rewarding career," he said.
Waterman has given $50,000 of his own money to the Investment Club, which invests it throughout the year. At the end of the year, they donate 80 percent of the interest income – after paying the necessary taxes – to a charity and can use 20 percent to throw a party. The principal remains in the club to be reinvested each year. He said the students usually gross about $4,000 from the investments to give to charities but they also learn a lot.
"They can't take really high risks like making just a single investment but they are encouraged to try different things," he said. "If they make money, they learn something. If they lose money, they also learn something."
Metzler said that Econ Illinois began it's relationship with 3M when it learned that Minnesota's Council for Economic Education was working with the company to award teachers in its state. They discovered that 3M was looking for a similar way to reward Illinois teachers and they now supply the award each year.
"They have been amazing to work with," said Metzler.
Waterman will be will be honored at the Econ Illinois annual Economic Educator Day Awards Luncheon on October 26.
Waterman will receive a framed certificate, cash award and professional development opportunity, which will allow him to pass on his education knowledge to other teachers looking to enhance economic education in the classroom.