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Hillside teacher gains economic honor

The Minnesota Council on Economic Education (MCEE) will honor Jessica Kocon at its annual EconFest celebration on Nov. 8, at the 3M Innovation Center in Maplewood, Minn.

Kocon, a teacher at Hillside Elementary in New Richmond, will receive the Thrivent Financial Personal Finance Educator Award which recognizes educators

who increase student understanding of personal finance through original learning activities at the elementary and secondary levels. Winning entries were chosen based on innovation of approach, emphasis on personal finance concepts, ease of replication, and assessment of student learning. Kocon will receive the first place award in the elementary division.

Kocon uses the story "The Hard Times Jar" to teach personal finance concepts of scarcity, alternatives, economic choices and opportunity cost. Students first read the story and discuss the scarcity that Emma and her family face and the economic choices they must make. The next day, students are required to identify their own alternatives and economic choices in a group activity (making hot chocolate for everyone) that simulates scarcity as each student group lacks materials. In solving the problem, students must identify decision criteria, alternatives and the opportunity costs.

The recognition of Kocon's achievements includes an award of $1,500.

"One of the most effective ways to increase student understanding of economic principles is to make economics and personal financial decision-making skills come alive in the classroom," said MCEE Executive Director Donald Liu. "Every year, hundreds of Minnesota educators are doing just that. We look forward to recognizing their achievements and the outstanding work of Ms. Kocon and other award winners at our event on Nov. 8."

MCEE is a non-profit organization housed at the University of Minnesota with a mission to provide local residents with the economic and financial understanding they need to function effectively in a complex, global environment. MCEE's primary outreach is through teachers and students.

This marks the seventh year Thrivent Financial has sponsored the Personal Finance Educator Awards Program.