December 15, 2006
Gregory Fisher, teacher at California Academy of Mathematics and Science, has won the Teacher of the Year award from the Global Association of Teachers of Economics. Only one award was given nationally to a high school teacher.
Fisher’s hands-on style of teaching and use of vivid examples of abstract concepts—he squeezes an orange, getting progressively less juice even as he squeezes harder, to aquaint students with the idea of marginal utility and diminishing returns—has led to outstanding work from students in CAMS classrooms and in interscholastic competition.
"There’s a difference between teaching something and teaching about something," Fisher said. "I teach it—direct, hands-on, lessons and metaphors so that students are engaged."
CAMS teams have fared well in recent years in the Capital Markets contest conducted by the Federal Reserve Board. "It’s basically analyzing the U.S. economy and making recommendations and proposals that demonstrate their understanding," Fisher said.
Students in his classes are invited to take what they learn and go beyond the classroom with it. A class project that has proven popular is the Econ Variety Show. Students pair up and prepare a one-hour economics lesson that they then present at their former elementary or middle school.
Another popular event is the Successful Investor Program, which takes place each May. Teams of students develop a product and a business plan and then seek funding from guest judges who include representatives of venture capital firms.
Product ideas over the years have included disposable toothbrushes—before they were successfully introduced in the real world—smart parking lots, radar systems, websites and public health innovations. The lessons help students understand the economics that can lead to a successful proposal and rollout of a new product or service.
The guest judges have come away impressed by the high school students’ work, comparing it favorably to similar projects completed by local university students.
After receiving his award this fall at a banquet in New York, Fisher flew on to the Baltic state of Lithuania for a 10-day observational study tour of economics teaching in that country.
Fisher also has participated in a month-long exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to teach for a month in Ukraine.