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It's our pleasure to recognize and highlight Maryland educators from across grade bands and content areas to showcase how they successfully share personal finance and economics concepts with their students. If you know of an innovative teacher who we should spotlight, please let us know!

  • April 24, 2023 1:18 PM | Dawn Baker (Administrator)

    Kimberly Jackson

    Gaithersburg High

    Montgomery County Public Schools

    Kimberly Jackson has two sayings she tells her students repeatedly: “just because you have money doesn’t mean you know or understand money,” and “nobody plans to fail, they just fail to plan.”

    The lessons in these phrases illustrate Kimberly’s thoughtful approach to teaching personal-finance. For the past 23 years, she has taught business and accounting in Montgomery County with the past 13 years at Gaithersburg  High School. While Gaithersburg High doesn’t offer a dedicated course in personal finance, Kimberly is stepping up to ensure students are exploring personal finance concepts that will change their lives - infusing this learning into class conversations and sponsoring an extracurricular club. In doing so, she has been leveraging MCEE resources and competitions.

    “By the time my students reach my classroom, they care about and think about money,” explained Kimberly. “And through honest conversations about personal finance, students see quickly that this is information they want and need in order to be successful. From there, the questions and ‘ah-hah’ moments come naturally. MCEE is a great help in providing activities, lessons, and resources that enhance these conversations.”

    12 years ago, Kimberly began sponsoring “The Millionaire's Club” - an extracurricular student group that meets twice a month to learn about personal finance, hear from guest speakers, and compete in activities like the Stock Market Game™. Today, the club boasts more than 40 students - one of the more popular clubs in the school.   Kimberly’s determined and flexible approach to teaching personal finance - sponsoring a club, sparking class conversations and creating lessons and projects in spite of there being no dedicated class, is an immeasurable benefit to her students.

    “We recently did a lesson where I challenged students to pick a college and look up the full cost of attending,” said Kimberly. “Some students came back thinking a one-year's worth of tuition was what the full four years cost. It was an eye-opening experience that demonstrates how much this education is needed.”

    Students in Kimberly’s classes are exploring credit, learning simple tips for saving (“save your change!” says Kimberly), and understanding interest, long term growth of stocks, and college expenses. Kimberly also works with MCEE to guide students in the Stock Market Game™ and the Personal Finance Challenge.

    “These concepts can apply to any subject. And many of my students may not have been exposed to these conversations or concepts at home. A student approached me the other day and said everyone is telling them to go to college, but nobody is taking the time to discuss the costs. This needs to change.”  The lessons learned are sticking with students - growth Kimberly knows is imperative for their futures.

    “We set students up for financial challenges if we don’t give them tools to navigate their finances after high school,” said Kimberly. “Students need to hear these messages over and over again. Anyone who can share personal finance knowledge with students - no matter the subject you teach or the role you play - will enhance their learning opportunities should do so.”

  • March 22, 2023 2:04 PM | Dawn Baker (Administrator)

    Amy Cargiulo

    Waverly Elementary

    Howard County Public Schools

    For almost two decades, Amy Cargiulo has witnessed first-hand the power of personal finance education. As a fifth grade Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher at Waverly Elementary in Howard County, she finds it on the faces of students participating in MCEE’s Stock Market Game™, in the insightful questions they bring from home, and in the stories she hears from former students!  

    Today, Amy guides more than 100 students a year to be part of the Stock Market Game™. And throughout their experience, she encourages them to remember something important: always reflect! 

    “I want my students talking and thinking about what they are learning as much as possible,” she says. “And with something as fun and hands-on as the Stock Market Game™, that’s no problem. Students excitedly discuss ideas and questions non-stop - even bringing conversations home and questions to the class from their families.” 

    Those reflections result in thoughtful student essays submitted to MCEE’s Investwrite competition, a Stock Market Game™ companion program that challenges participants to share their experiences and lessons. Her students are thinking deeper, and through participation in Investwrite, organizing what they learn into a narrative - thereby retaining the information and setting themselves up for success. Amy ensures all of her students participating in the Stock Market Game™ enter Investwrite. 

    To help, MCEE is on hand to answer questions and provide regular workshops and educator sessions that give teachers the context, expertise, and strategies they need to make the most of student participation in these engaging competitions (educators can check out the MCEE event calendar for the latest!). 

    It’s clear from student essay responses that the approach sticks. Amy regularly welcomes former students back to class to share their journeys towards financial success thanks to lessons learned in her class. She even helped some former students start a Stock Market Game club at the high school they now attend! 

    Amy’s introduction to personal finance education in the classroom began almost twenty years ago, when “a colleague was working with MCEE on the Stock Market Game™ before she literally fell off a horse, and had me jump in and cover the program! She thankfully ended up being okay, but I was enthralled with the value of this experience for students. I dove in head first and haven’t looked back!” 

    Along the way, MCEE has been there to support her. “MCEE is absolutely wonderful. They are always available to answer any questions I have and provide resources I knew (or didn’t know!) I needed.”  That support goes both ways. Amy, now a proven, successful educator in personal finance, has served on MCEE’s advisory board - helping us refine, enhance, and improve our resources and guidance for teachers statewide - no matter the subject. 

  • February 27, 2023 2:32 PM | Dawn Baker (Administrator)

     Kurt Marx

    Stephen Decatur High

    Worcester County Public Schools

    Kurt Marx, Business Teacher at Stephen Decatur High School in Worcester County, starts conversations about personal finance with his students by asking questions: 1) How many of you want to be millionaires? (hands fly up) 2) How much do you think you need to save a month, at a 12% return, to become one by the time you’re my age?   “When students hear that what they need to save a month isn’t thousands, but rather just $100, they are shocked and interested,” said Kurt. “I stress the importance of personal finance and then reveal wealth’s accessibility. It engages students right away - especially those who may have never experienced this kind of thinking or known about these opportunities growing up.” 


    For more than 20 years, Kurt has been introducing students to personal finance in a fun and competitive learning environment that emphasizes the accessibility of financial success.  In the process, he is introducing students to opportunities, jobs, and financial aspirations they may not otherwise experience growing up in a rural, low-income community. By guiding students in MCEE’s Stock Market Game™, thePersonal Finance Challenge, and the Economics Challenge, and by relating personal finance concepts to their interests, Kurt is changing the trajectories of his students’ futures, with many taking new paths and setting new goals as a result. 


    Like its work with all educators, MCEE partners with Kurt to ensure he has support and access to meaningful student learning experiences in personal finance and economics.  “If we can get students involved in something they view as fun, they're significantly more likely to take something from it,” he explained. “These competitions do exactly that.”  


    Every semester, Kurt guides multiple student teams in the Stock Market Game™. Many have won state and regional championships. He dedicates daily class time for students to collaborate, research, and discuss their investment ideas. From there, the lessons come naturally. “We’re exploring companies, reading news, and examining how athletes spend money,” said Kurt. “Students are asking each other how things like war or inflation might impact stock prices. I don’t give them answers - I support them as they find their way toward the truth. Their enthusiasm is impossible to miss. MCEE’s programs and guidance of educators helps make this happen.” 


    From what Kurt has heard from parents, this enthusiasm extends beyond the classroom. “I heard from a parent that their child may not love going to school except for my class,” beamed Kurt. “Another told me she saw her son watching CNBC and researching stocks at night. It was the first time she’s seen her child passionate about something related to school. She was so proud.” 


    Kurt believes the Stock Market Game™ should be infused into all subjects. “No matter the class you’re teaching - from math to social studies - the game can apply. It encourages students to take in the world around them, to think critically, and to explore. No matter the subject, it encourages curiosity and learning.” 


    MCEE’s resources and professional development experiences - from lesson plans and curriculum aligned trainings to classroom activities - give educators the tools and understanding to apply personal finance concepts to a variety of academic subjects.  “Learning experiences like these is what makes MCEE’s support so valuable,” said Marx. “With MCEE’s guidance, we’re teaching kids that they don't have to take big risks to be wealthy.”

  • January 19, 2023 2:21 PM | Dawn Baker (Administrator)


     Karen Yancey

    Marley Elementary

    Anne Arundel County Public Schools

    When it comes to learning, there just aren’t enough hours in the day! But that’s no problem for Karen Yancey, 3rd grade teacher at Marley Elementary School in Anne Arundel County. Whether during the school day or after, Karen is working with students to build their understanding of personal finance that will enable them to make good financial decisions throughout their lives.

    During the pandemic, Karen noticed that personal finance and economics education was not being covered in traditional elementary and middle school curricula. So she created an after-school program to change that!

    Partnering with MCEE, Karen now guides 4th and 5th grade students in playing the Stock Market Game once a week after school. Three times as many students now attend the program, dubbed the Stock Market Club, compared to when it was started two years ago!

    “Kids are so curious and interested,” beamed Karen. “Many of my students have not had the opportunity to learn this content, and they get so excited - discussing stocks as they walk down the hallway, coming in daily with new questions and new research. Being exposed to this content, and this forward thinking, at a young age helps students build good habits and financial understanding. It’s a huge deal.”

    Karen’s students even bring stories of their experiences at home to discuss in school. “If a grandma visits one of my students, we discuss where they went to eat, how much it cost, what companies are benefiting, and whether they have stocks worth exploring. They even bring questions or ideas their parents may have into the classroom for discussion.” In the process, students build valuable skills like research, long-term planning, creative thinking, math, and making connections between disparate ideas.

    Karen regularly seeks out MCEE’s resources, incorporating Stock Market Game lessons, attending the annual Summit to engage with fellow educators, and even hitting the road with her students to visit the Towson University Finance Lab - an experience coordinated by MCEE. Next semester, she’ll be working with MCEE to incorporate into her teaching the children’s book Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire: The Lemonade Escapade, which is available through MCEE to educators across Maryland.

    “Any time I reach out to MCEE, they’re there for me, providing information and resources that make my job easier,” said Karen. “For many of my students, the Towson trip was the first time being on a college campus. A bunch of them kept saying they would go to Towson after high school on the way home!”

    A teacher for the last seven years, Karen understands the value of learning with her students. “In some ways, the less you think you know as a teacher, the better you are. That way, you're learning right there with the children - applying their interests to financial concepts and considerations. We look things up together and I give them ownership of finding their answers. The ah-ha moments happen every day!”

    Karen has some simple advice for teachers interested in delivering personal finance and economics education to their students. “Don't be afraid to dive in and do this, regardless of how much you know. Lean on experts like MCEE and see the power of learning together with your students.” 

  • December 06, 2022 1:12 PM | Dawn Baker (Administrator)

        Ed Keeler    

    Easton Middle

    Talbot County Public Schools

    For Ed Keeler, veteran social studies teacher at Easton Middle School in Talbot County, teaching personal finance and economics concepts to his eighth grade students starts by looking back. Ed is enhancing his history curriculum by connecting students with something they know and value: money.

    “Much of American history is based on capitalism,” explains Ed. “I start off talking about the age of exploration and how people took risks. I make a big deal about investing and companies being born. I can then tie that history to economics concepts like the stock market and ask my students, ‘Now, what does the future look like?’”

    MCEE’s Stock Market Game is a perfect tool for Ed’s students to explore that question.

    “Students absolutely love the game. They get geared up in collaborating, tracking stocks, and predicting the future performance of companies,” he notes. “We have countless discussions about what might be coming; will electric cars be big? What will happen with fast food? What growing companies have we overlooked? It’s the highlight of my teaching, and MCEE is a huge help in organizing the game and supporting it with lessons.”

    Ed has been teaching for 34 years and his participation with MCEE extends beyond the Stock Market Game. He regularly attends events, serves on the MCEE Teacher Advisory Board, and has worked with students on MCEE’s Investwrite essay competition. “MCEE is a fantastic resource,” he explains. “Teachers should go to them for ideas and support. It makes a difference.” 

    Says Ed, “Teachers should explain that students this age will soon be old enough to work, to save, and to take control of their finances,” he said. “I share personal experiences and the lessons I’ve learned. Students connect to that. It’s a perfect jumping off point towards learning about history and personal finance - together.” 

  • October 26, 2022 11:47 AM | Dawn Baker (Administrator)

                Julius Prezelski     

    Mount St. Joseph High

    Baltimore County Private School

    To Julius Prezelski, a personal finance teacher at Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore County, the reason for teaching personal finance is simple: when students see how the lessons can impact their lives, they make connections and are immediately interested.

    “When students see the financial benefit of understanding these concepts, they’re hooked,” he explains. “Who doesn’t want to have the financial understanding necessary to become wealthy? Personal Finance is a very popular class - and by the way, it should be mandatory statewide.”

    By focusing on real-world financial considerations, including current events and leveraging MCEE resources, Mr. Prezelski has developed a curriculum that creates high demand for his classes.

    That demand is the result of Mr. Prezelski’s creativity and perseverance - and his use of the many resources available from MCEE. Early in his 26-year tenure, he persuaded school leadership to let him introduce a personal finance elective course. Eventually, more than half of the schools’ students signed up! They loved the discussions, asked thoughtful questions, and remained interested in the course topics well-after the classes were over.

    To continuously enhance the course, Mr. Prezelski partners with MCEE to deliver its lesson plans, games, and resources. “MCEE is one fantastic resource for classroom activities and professional development to make sure I maintain expertise on the latest topics, from crypto and bonds to inflation and short selling.”

    Mr. Prezelski mentors two teams each year in MCEE’s Personal Finance Challenge. “Last year, MCEE had teams create a simulated family financial plan to present. This sort of comprehensive planning and presenting experience was incredibly meaningful for students.” He also coordinates an investment club with nearly 60 active participants who meet in the mornings before school. It has become one of Mount St. Joe’s largest clubs. 

    In the last year, has completed more than 100 hours of professional development on a variety of personal finance topics - from MCEE and others. He regularly attends conferences, networks with fellow teachers. Mr. Prezelski’s passion for financial literacy the subject is clear - and it transfers to his students. He passes on his knowledge and what he gains from professional development conferences and workshops - including those provided by MCEE - to students, who are listening, and spreading the word.

    “Parents tell me all the time how their students rave about the course over dinner. It’s starting, or continuing, the conversation at home.” said Prezelski.

    Now, says Mr. Prezelski, it’s important to implement a financial education requirement across the state. “I tell my students: ‘what you’re learning here will impact you at some point in time. Whether you come from wealth or not, these are concepts you need to understand.’ A mandate would make that happen.” 

  • September 19, 2022 8:13 PM | Dawn Baker (Administrator)

    Flo Falatko     

    Cromwell Valley Elementary

    Baltimore County Public Schools

    Flo Falatko sees financial literacy as an important part of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education. And in her classroom at Cromwell Valley Elementary School in Baltimore County, she makes sure it is - by working with MCEE to deliver financial literacy lessons, hands-on experiences, and programs in ways that stick, simulate real-world economics, and are fun for students.

    “I love the energy from the students! Learning from and with them, and giving them a voice is extremely important to me,” said Falatko. “I thoroughly enjoy that aspect of teaching - and it shines through in financial literacy.”

    For 20 years, Flo has been guiding K-5th grade students as a STEAM Resource Teacher - working with every student and teacher in the school. No matter the subject Flo is teaching, she finds ways to bring financial literacy into learning. If students are doing science projects on sending food pods to the moon, Flo makes sure they consider the pricing and budget for their materials. If book reports are in the lesson plan, Flo works with MCEE to find compelling stories (dubbed tradebooks) and lessons that reinforce financial concepts.

    Flo uses many of MCEE’s resources in her work. She supports educators as they offer the Stock Market Game to 140 Cromwell Valley students a year, and identifies MCEE-produced lessons they can incorporate in their plans, from topical books to informative case studies. Flo often brainstorms with MCEE staff about explaining economic concepts to different age groups, what to cover in emerging economic theories, and more.

    “Whenever I have an idea, I bounce it off MCEE. They are incredibly responsive and passionate about making it a reality. And in the process, they provide a community of teachers to talk with, share ideas, and explore lessons learned. It’s such an important resource. Sometimes, I simply go to their website, search by grade level, and find books and resources to consider.”

    Last year, one of Flo’s fourth grade teacher colleagues expressed interest in preparing students for the Stock Market Game, which is tailored to students in grades five and above. Flo came to MCEE for ideas on how to accommodate the younger class. “MCEE was so supportive in providing lesson connections,” she explained. “Anything that’s helping to further the financial education of our students; MCEE is there to help make it a reality.”

    Flo’s commitment to financial literacy stems from her experiences growing up without the guidance she now delivers to students. “Simply put, I feel that if I had had the financial education I needed, I wouldn’t have experienced the financial challenges I overcame,” she explained. “Our students and families need to be met wherever they are, and that’s what we're trying to do.” In doing so, Flo brings a unique perspective on how financial literacy can enhance a variety of subjects, from social studies and English to science and, of particular focus for her, math.

    “I use financial literacy as a tool to teach students math skills like place value, ratios, positive and negative integers, and percentages. There are so many in-roads to financial principles. It’s an organic way for students to learn math concepts without realizing they are learning math concepts!” Along the way, students learn budgeting, the stock market, risk calculation, and interest rates.

    Through this focus on economic education, students are also building foundational skills like collaboration, cooperation, critical thinking, forecasting, and problem solving. They’re paying attention to current events and bringing what they learn back to the classroom - asking Flo and one another if or how news of war or elections might impact economic markets. The classes learn together, explore together, and build 21st century skills they need to be successful.

    “I think teachers sometimes are hesitant to admit they don’t know something, especially with financial literacy,” said Flo. “They may say ‘I should know this’ but the truth is, you shouldn’t know everything. Embrace collective learning, never underestimate student interest, and pick up the phone to collaborate with MCEE around these powerful, impactful ideas!” 

  • June 15, 2022 11:20 AM | Anonymous

            Dr. Maddy Halbach      

    Application and Research Laboratory

    Howard County Public Schools

    Academy of Finance (AOF)

    Dr. Maddy Halbach fully understands the intrinsic value of personal financial education. “The reason I teach is to give kids the opportunity to know what they're doing so they can make good decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.”

    Dr. Halbach is the Academy of Finance instructor for the Howard County Public School System. For the past 15 years, she has taught economics, business, and finance courses to high school students at the Applications and Research Laboratory, the Career and Technical High School for Howard County that enrolls students from 12 county high schools.

    Her passion is in introducing students to financial literacy so they can use those skills to reduce the achievement and socio-economic gaps for students.And thanks to her passion and dedication, her students have thrived. Many of them have won state and national competitions in personal finance, and Stock Market Game regional awards and MCEE’s Investwrite challenge. In 2021 and 2022 a team of her students captured not only first place in the Maryland Personal Finance Challenge competition, but went on to represent Maryland in the National Personal Finance Challenge Program. In both 2021 and 2022 her Maryland champion teams fought their way to a second place national finish.

    Especially rewarding for Dr. Halback is “seeing students from disadvantaged areas who can turn their lives around by making good financial decisions in their late teens and early 20s. It's easy to get yourself into debt and hard to get out of it,” said Dr. Halback. “But if you understand finances, you won’t put yourself into debt. If all high school students fully understand financial literacy, they can make informed decisions about what they want to do and where they want to be. They can decide on going to college full time or part time - or at all - and in-state or out-of-state with a higher tuition. They can take out loans with the knowledge that they have to be paid back and know to explore and apply for  scholarships.” 

    “It’s a way to come out of poverty,” notes Dr. Halbach. “Education and financial literacy can help  break the vicious cycle of generational poverty.”

    Dr. Halbach’s personal story attests to this. “I was an immigrant coming from an area where education was not a priority. I dropped out of high school when I was 15 years old. What followed were some bad financial decisions, a few questionable life choices and some eye-opening experiences. Eventually, while raising three wonderful children, I returned to school to acquire my GED, Bachelor’s, Masters and eventually my Ph.D. I want to help kids avoid the same pitfalls.”

    Dr. Hablach’s commitment to her students has been recognized. She was honored as the Maryland Financial Literacy Teacher of the Year in 2016 and the 2017 Howard County Teacher of the Year. She has trained teachers around the country on implementing financial education courses and has been a guest speaker for financial literacy scholarship awards, economic council events, and at national and state conferences. Dr. Halbach also co-wrote an online financial literacy course for the State of Maryland.

    Not surprisingly, Dr. Habach is an advocate for a statewide financial education requirement in order to graduate high school. “Too oten, school is the only place where children will learn how to make these decisions. And unless it’s mandated, it doesn’t get taught.”

    “I am proud to say that 100% of my students have graduated high school, 99% have passed the NAF certification, and 95% are college bound, says Dr. Halbach. “My heart is full of pride for what my students have accomplished.”


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