The Highlawn School (Source: DOE)
O’Hagan (Source: CEE)
Under most circumstances, a teacher making kids pay rent to use their desks would see them crucified on the front pages of the city’s tabloids. But at P.S. 97 The Highlawn School (1855 Stillwell Avenue), fourth grade teacher Kathleen O’Hagan scored a coveted teaching award.
That’s because the rent is not real. Neither are the job applications students fill out, or the insurance they purchase. It’s all part of a simulated “mini-economy” O’Hagan uses to teach economics and financial literacy to her students.
The 11-year veteran was one of three metro-area educators to receive the Alfred P. Sloan Teaching Champion Award this year, given in recognition of innovative teaching methods promoting financial education at the K-12 level. Now in its second year, the Council for Economic Education (CEE) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced the awards for the area’s top economics educators at the beginning of September and will formally celebrate them at a gala on October 30.
In addition to the simulated economy, O’Hagan organizes student debates on economic issues, uses a play to teach students about the Industrial Revolution, and teaches kids about production using a 3-D printer.
O’Hagan said that financial literacy is important to helping her students overcome the economic obstacles they may have been born into. In a statement, she said:
“Students are born into their parents’ economic reality and unfortunately, for far too many city children this often means not seeing their parents because they work multiple jobs, sometimes coming to school hungry, being under-dressed for the weather, or arriving to school without basic school supplies. Economic education and financial literacy instruction empowers students to envision and prepare for a better economic future for themselves and hopefully, also teaches them the importance of being philanthropic.”
She and two other educators – O’Hagan being the only one in the five boroughs – were selected by a panel of experts for her creativity and ability to engage students. Honorees receive a $5,000 prize and the school receives a $2,500 cash award to support economic and financial education.
The other two teachers to win the award are Amanda Tombari, a teacher in West Nyack, NY, and Darren Gurney, of New Rochelle, NY.
“We applaud these outstanding teachers for their innovation and dedication to making economic concepts come alive for their students,” said Nan J. Morrison, CEE President and CEO, in a press release. “We hope that by bringing awareness to their achievements, these educators will serve as inspiration for their fellow teachers to bring economics and financial literacy to every classroom.”
It’s not the first award for O’Hagan, who previously won a writing fellowship at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullen Center in 2009, a MetLife fellowship in 2007 and is the recipient of both the UFT’s Trachtenberg and Chapter Building Awards in 2013.
Congratulations to O’Hagan and the Highlawn School! Keep up the good work!