Edward R. Murrow HS teacher wins prestigious Sloan award

Key topic: Financial literacy

September 3, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Edward R. Murrow economics teacher Matthew Gherman was chosen as one of the winners of this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Teaching Champion Award. Photo by Natalie Gherman
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How do you teach complex macroeconomic concepts like supply and demand, balance of trade and inflation to high school students?

A teacher at Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow High School has been firing up his 11th- and 12th-grade students about money matters by grounding the subject in the understandable topic of personal finance.

“I want my students to understand that the world of economics is not just about supply and demand curves, but everyday life decisions as well,” said Matthew Gherman, 30, one of three teachers recently chosen for The Council for Economic Education’s (CEE) third annual Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Teaching Champion Award.

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Gherman teaches AP and honors economics classes along with College Now Business Administration, and is the personal finance coordinator of Murrow. His students score high on the AP economics exam, but more importantly, they leave his classroom ready for the financial challenges of college and careers.

“I try to incorporate as much personal finance as possible,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle. “For example, when we’re studying the national debt, I incorporate ideas like personal debt and credit cards, and apply that to the national level.”

Gherman says there are some differences between personal debt and national debt, however.

“We have to face the consequences of going into debt. But Congress doesn’t have those same consequences!” he said.

Gherman also incorporates student feedback into his test preparation and lesson material, he said. Students tell him, for instance, “what test prep they found useful or didn’t see on the AP test and would like more of,” he said. He also includes personal finance topics that students express an interest in.

Being a parent has helped him teach personal finance, Gherman told the Eagle. “I give my students advice I wish my current self could have told my previous self. This has become one of my main approaches – I teach what I find useful and would have liked to know.”

Topics include interest rates, credit cards, mortgages and bank accounts — subjects all students should know about before they head to college. He also trains senior students to teach personal finance to elementary school students with the Junior Heroes Program.

Gherman has worked to extend the W!SE Foundation financial literacy certification program to students needing instructional support at Murrow, as well.

“They get a certificate, too. It’s been really great working with their teachers,” he said.

As one of the winners of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Teaching Champion Award, Gherman has demonstrated “innovative teaching methods, lesson plans and learning strategies,” the foundation said in a release.

The other two winners of the award are Noah Lipman, who teaches 11th- and 12th-grade AP macroeconomics at Long Branch High School in New Jersey, and Deborah Surian, an 11th- and 12th-grade economics teacher at Hauppauge High School, Hauppauge, NY.

All three teachers, who were selected by an expert panel of judges, will receive the Sloan Award at CEE’s annual Visionary Awards gala later this fall. 

 “We applaud these outstanding teachers for their innovation and dedication to making economic concepts come alive for their students,” Nan J. Morrison, CEE president and CEO, said in a statement. “We hope that by bringing awareness to their achievements, these educators will inspire their fellow teachers to bring economics and financial literacy to every classroom.”

The winners will have the opportunity to share best practices with their colleagues by leading a training workshop for area teachers and sharing their best lessons with teachers nationwide through videos on CEE’s sister site, EconEdLink. The winners will also each receive a $5,000 prize, and their schools will receive a cash award of $2,500 to support economic and financial education.

Gherman, who was nominated for the award by Assistant Principal Ryan Mills, said he’ll discuss with Mills what the school should do with the award money.

“We’ll probably increase the amount of tablets. The school has 4,200 students and can use more hands on technology equipment,” he said.


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