Teacher Spotlight

TeacherSpotlight_SlideAstuto

Dr. Keith Astuto took home Second Place in the Econ 101 category, high school division at the 2017 Governor’s Award Program For Excellence in Teaching Economics, for his project: “Fear the Scarce Resources”. His project was chosen for its engaging and relevant approach to teaching economics to his entry level economics students. Keith’s project paired students into groups and required them to survive the “zombie apocalypse” by working out three key economic questions: “what will be produced, how will it be produced, and how will the benefits be distributed?”. Students were tasked with learning basic economic concepts like incentives, trade-offs, and of course, scarcity. To see Keith’s winning project application and presentation, click below.

Project Application & Presenation

School: TERRA Environmental Research Institute

School District: Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Subject: AP Macroeconomics, Honors Government, AP U.S. Government & Politics, Honors Economics & Financial Literacy

Grade Level: 12th grade

Number of Years Teaching: 14

When did you know you wanted to be a teacher? It seems like I’ve always been teaching. In school I tutored other students in the neighborhood. In business I was always the one showing new hires the ropes or training the workers (and managers) on how to use new equipment or software. As an attorney I educate the judge on the law to be applied, and prepare the jurors to come up with the right answers for the “final exam” at the end of the case. And as a newscaster . . . well, the similarities are striking. Coming into the classroom seems like a natural progression, and the opportunity to help shape the future and steer it in the right direction is irresistible.

If you weren’t teaching what would you do?
Probably rev up my legal practice back to full-time, although the idea of being a game show host is very appealing!

What’s your favorite topic to teach?
Economics and Government are my two favorite topics, and I think it’s for the same reason: there is so much going on the world today that relates to each of them that there are plenty of real-world examples and current-events/crises I can pull in to illustrate what is important in the curriculum. While that makes teaching more challenging (there is no Instructor’s Manual for the questions that arise), it helps to capture students’ interest and helps them see the relevance of what they are learning.

What’s the hardest topic to teach?
I still believe that it’s AP Macroeconomics. Unlike most Social Science courses, it is less concrete. Students must become familiar with abstract concepts and then apply those to data and hypotheticals and evaluate the outcomes. Most students have not had to use those particular “cerebral muscles” and having to do so at a college level makes it more challenging for them, which makes it more challenging for us as teachers.

Why do you think Economics and Personal Finance are important to learn?
Economics is important because of the role it plays in the success of the republic – without knowledge of economics it is very easy to be misled by politicians and government officials who are cleverly disguising their best interests as your best interest. Just as economic literacy is vital to the continuity of our nation, financial literacy is vital to our individual survival. Having health and socio-emotional well-being is arguably more important than having money, but having money enables you to maintain your health and socio-emotional well-being.

How has the FCEE impacted your teaching?
FCEE has helped me in numerous ways. The workshops and professional development it provides have increased my knowledge of economics, which means I have higher quality knowledge to pass along to my students. The lessons, materials and competitions that FCEE provides give me a wide range of resources from which I can choose to clarify a concept or make a lesson livelier and more accessible. The FCEE’s programs have also allowed me to network with instructors at the secondary and college level as well as with business leaders, allowing me to bring more professionalism to my educational practice.

What’s your favorite FCEE resource or program?
When it comes to encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning, the Stock Market Challenge is hard to beat (although I just had a student winner in the Economic Calendar Contest, and Rockonomix is coming up strong on the outside!). Personally, the Governor’s Awards Program has encouraged me to expand what I do in the classroom and devise new ways of reaching my students.

What advice would you give to a first-year economics or personal finance teacher?
First is to make sure you have a good, solid grasp of the material – Economics is a very complex field of study and it is easy to get lost in the concepts. Second, there are lots of interesting lesson plans from lots of sources, including the FCEE. The only problem is finding the time to review, adapt, & get comfortable with them before presenting them in class. Don’t stress yourself out; start with a smaller number of them and space them out over the semester. Add a few more the following year. You will ensure that you master them before you present them, and you will build a strong repertoire of engaging lessons. Finally, make connections with your peers; pick their brains for ideas and advice and, as you develop your expertise, give back and share your ideas with others.

What do you like to do for fun outside of school?
 I like to listen to music, travel when I can, read when I have time, and share the experiences with my family. Of course, I try to find ways for my students and I to have fun inside of school, too!

What’s one thing your students may not know about you?
 I was a contestant on the original series of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.