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Teachers from Baltimore and Carroll counties win $1,000 state financial education awards

A Baltimore County elementary school teacher and a Carroll County middle school teacher are two of five winners in the eighth annual Maryland Financial Education & Capability Awards.

Gerri Otto, a social studies resource teacher for Baltimore County Public Schools, and Carol Schaper, a family and consumer science teacher at Sykesville Middle School, received $1,000 for successfully teaching colleagues and young people how to handle money. The financial award money is made possible from the Maryland Society of Accounting and Tax Professionals and the Woodside Foundation.

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The ceremony was coordinated in a Zoom meeting by CASH Campaign of Maryland and the Maryland Financial Education and Capability Commission, highlighting the public school teachers, community champions and organizations who deliver financial education.

“CASH developed these awards to call attention to the importance of strengthening the economic lives of all Marylanders, no matter their age, and allows us to acknowledge and congratulate teachers, community champions and outstanding organizations dedicated to helping people understand the importance of making good financial decisions for a better financial future,” said Robin McKinney, co-founder and CEO of CASH Campaign of Maryland, in a release.

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Otto said she was excited and, “over the moon” after winning the financial award and highlighted a stock market game she developed the idea with last year’s winner in Baltimore County, Florence Falatko, a Cromwell Valley Elementary Magnet School teacher.

“We did a stock market game, and that was implemented in fourth grade — it can be implemented from fourth grade to 12th grade,” she said. “I did professional development on how to use the stock market game in the classroom.”

Otto brought the game to many high, middle and elementary schools in the county by writing and winning a grant from the Education Foundation. She also wrote curriculum for kindergarten through third grade students on personal finance to be implemented countywide.

Schaper, who teaches at Sykesville Middle School, called the award “a great honor for my professional career.”

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She said she tries to do as many hands-on activities as possible, mentioning a Maryland Council on Economic Education poster contest her students participate in each year. The MCEE provides resources to help teachers in Maryland improve economic and financial education for school children.

“Students design posters based upon the 12 concepts that MCEE puts in their guidelines and my students develop these posters,” Schaper said. “We turn them in to hopefully be in the calendar that MCEE gives every year.”

Each award recipient demonstrated hard work and dedication in the financial topics of budgeting, careers and income, credit, savings, and financial decision-making.

Additional $1,000 awards were given to Michael Baker, a high school teacher in Prince George’s County, winning the High School Teacher Award; Jesse Ketterman, an individual educator from Allegany County, winning the Community Champion Award; and the Financial Education Partnership of Washington County, winning the Outstanding Organization Award.

“During this pandemic when so many are facing hardship and uncertainty, financial education is more important than ever … it can change lives for the better,” McKinney said.

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