Teacher Spotlight — David Edelman

David Edelman has been a Social Studies teacher and Peer Instructional Coach in NYC Public Schools for over a decade. David provides instructional coaching, mentoring and professional learning to colleagues, in addition to teaching Government & Economics classes. His classroom serves as a learning lab and demonstration classroom to foster inter and intra school collaboration. David teaches at Union Square Academy for Health Sciences (USA) a new, unscreened, public high school with a Career & Technical Education focus in NY, NY. Most of David’s students will be first in their family to attend college. Students at USA take hands on lab classes in either dentistry or pharmacy technology, in addition to receiving a standard liberal arts education. All students have paid internships and professional mentors who expose students to their careers. In 2019 David received the Alfred P Sloan Teaching Champion Award for his approach to teaching Economics and personal finance. When David isn’t teaching, he's probably having fun with his two daughters Mila and Sophia and his wife Dahlia in Forest Hills, Queens. You can learn more about David, his teaching and see examples of his students’ work at his website www.cagebustingclassrooms.com.

What has been your favorite part of Budget Challenge as a teacher?

As an educator in NYC, there is a lot of conversation around the 4Rs: ensuring learning is Real, Relevant, Rigorous and Relationship oriented. Budget Challenge lifts this concept from mere buzz words into reality. I can’t think of anything more real, relevant, rigorous and relationship oriented than supporting students in mastering the skills of responsible adulting AKA The Budget Challenge Road Test to Personal Finance.

 What is the biggest challenge as a teacher when using the Budget Challenge? 

The biggest challenge is being strategic about how much support to give students during the simulation. I model how to complete each task at the beginning of the simulation and then gradually release that support. Remote learning has been wonderful for modeling since sharing my screen in the simulation is a breeze. I also secretly love it when students email me at midnight and say I’m trying to pay my electric bill and it's going to be late because of the 2 day processing window. I tell them that a mistake like this in the simulation is a very valuable life lesson that will stick with them when real money is on the line. What is even better is telling a student they can contact customer service and apply for a one time fee waiver.

What is the biggest challenge for students participating in Budget Challenge? 

Consistency. Another thing that is great about Budget Challenge is that it's not a one off activity, a handout or video clip but a long term 10 week simulation. Students sometimes struggle to maintain engagement throughout the simulation. That’s to be expected and understandable, but it is important for students to recognize the purposeful struggle with this and understand the consequences of falling behind with their personal finances. When students get caught up with leaderboard scores, especially early in the simulation, I reinforce the fact that saving, investing in the real world, like Budget Challenge, is a marathon, not a sprint.

Are there any tips you can give to new teachers using Budget Challenge? 

There are many creative ways to make connections between the simulation and other critical content and skills students need to master. For instance, I use a pay stub and credit card bill from Budget Challenge to draw comparisons between how most Americans budget and how the Federal Government budgets and infuse the documents into writing tasks that they use as evidence in responding to essential questions such as: To what extent is debt bad? Or how can individuals and governments maintain fiscal responsibility? During the week of April 15th, I have my students learn how to file a tax return and prepare a 1040 using there Budget Challenge W2.

How have your students responded to Budget Challenge during this unprecedented time? 

It's more important for learning to be real, relevant, rigorous and relationship oriented than ever. Busy work or compliance oriented learning isn’t sustainable, especially during remote learning when there are so many distractions, nor during a pandemic when life has us at our whits end. My students see the value in mastering money management. Students are vocal about what they want to learn. Time and time again they consistently mention personal finance. Being able to connect current events, whether it’s the GameStop, Robinhood, Reddit, Hedge Fund debacle or the $1.9 Trillion Economic Stimulus to the students’ 401k and paystub makes this an amazing time to learn personal finance.

Do you have a Budget Challenge story that is especially memorable?

Right now I have a student that rarely logs into class yet is in the top 5 on the leaderboard and it seems to frustrate other students in class. I use this as an opportunity to praise the student and to explain that learning and engagement can happen anywhere and at any time. You can pay a bill together in class, or you can pay a bill at midnight. Budget Challenge provides students with the tools and support to be successful. If students are motivated or independent learners, they can be successful in the simulation on their own. If students are collaborative learners, the simulation lends itself to modeling, collective practice and discussion. I do miss watching students at school work collaboratively to analyze the vendor contracts, create posters and give presentations to their classmates rationalizing their selections prior to the simulation start date.