ELKTON — When Lauren Shifflett’s parents, stepdad and two young children stepped into her classroom on Tuesday, along with Elkton Elementary School Principal Barbara Palmer and John Kruggel, associate director of the Department of Economics at James Madison University, it was clear she had no idea what was unfolding.
Kruggel, with balloons in hand, was there to tell Shifflett that she had been selected as the Virginia Council for Economic Educators’ 2019 economic educator of the year for lesson plans developed and executed last spring.
“I’m a little overwhelmed and in shock,” Shifflett said as her kids and Palmer took turns hugging her. “I really can’t believe this one.”
When developing her award-winning lesson plans, Shifflett considered a realistic and fun way to teach about money, which can often be dull. Shifflett decided against the traditional marketplace lesson, where students create products and then sell them to each other.
It was important to Shifflett that students work with fake money that resembled the real thing. So often children only see their parents using cards and not handling actual cash and change, she said.
“I wanted to focus on Rockingham’s five C’s,” Shifflett said, which are critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship.
Shifflett came up with an idea for students to build a city with a superhero theme, and all of the supplies they used to build and decorate their city would cost money.
Shifflett’s first-graders at Elkton Elementary School worked on “Superville Shifflett” for a little over a month last spring.
They started with 50 cents and had to pay for supplies and rent at the end of the day. Every day that students “showed up for work,” they received money to spend. Students worked together to pull money to make the supervillage bigger and more complex — and they got to wear capes while doing it.
“Everyone loves superheroes,” Shifflett said.
The school liked the idea so much that the lesson plans were submitted to the Virginia Council of Economic Educators for top-prize consideration.
The lesson plans will also be submitted for the national equivalent of the award, Kruggel said. Shifflett will attend an award celebration in Richmond on Nov. 22, which Palmer will also get to attend.
Along with Shifflett, Dawn Flora and Ann Minnick of Ottobine Elementary School won second prize statewide, making it a sweep for Shenandoah Valley educators.