Daniel Zubrowski, a special education teacher at Havre de Grace Elementary School, was recently named a winner in the 2019 Financial Education and Capability Award program.
Zubrowski was one of five winners in the sixth annual statewide awards program, presented by the nonprofit CASH Campaign of Maryland, the nonprofit Maryland Council on Economic Education and the Maryland State Department of Education.
Zubrowski won the Elementary School Teacher award; other awards were presented for middle school teacher, high school teacher, community champion and outstanding organization. The winners were recognized during the March 11 session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis, according to a news release.
“It wasn’t me … it was Havre de Grace Elementary School serving our community and it was beautiful,” Zubrowski, 38, said during a recent interview regarding his thoughts on the award.
The 13-year veteran teacher, who has spent his entire career at Havre de Grace Elementary and currently works with fourth-graders, coordinated a carnival-style financial literacy fair for students, their families and the community last spring.
Students learned about saving and investing through playing carnival games and determining the best uses for their prize money, whether to spend their initial winnings or save and continue to play in the hope of winning more money for a greater prize.
“You have to determine how much you want to save versus instant gratification,” Zubrowski said.
The carnival was sponsored by the Maryland Council on Economic Education, which had been working with school administrators during the year on a financial education curriculum, and Freedom Federal Credit Union.
Zubrowski said it was “a culminating event” for the school year and coincided with the school’s math-themed parent involvement night. Havre de Grace Elementary hosts reading and math-themed parent events each year, and the financial literacy carnival in April had one of the largest turnouts he has seen for a parent involvement night.
Another financial literacy carnival is planned for this year’s math night in May.
In addition to the carnival games, students could learn about the stock market and how to manage checking and savings accounts at last spring’s event. Their parents and other members of the community could get their own financial education on matters such as saving for college and pick up take-home materials to work with the children further.
Zubrowski also highlighted the Towson University student interns who volunteered during the carnival, setting up and running games, donating candy for prizes and taking photos.
“It was a true blessing that everybody was on board 100 percent,” he said.
Zubrowski cited one example that made him realize the carnival had worked. He recalled joking with a student about whether he would buy the teacher a box of candy with his prize money.
“He says, ‘Do you know hard I worked for this money, Mr. Z?’” Zubrowski said, noting the boy wanted to save his money for an even better prize.
“The fact that he understands the value of a dollar, what it is to work hard, to make a wise decision, that was great,” Zubrowski said.
Havre de Grace Elementary administrators, faculty and staff “want our kids to be financially set when they become adults, so we stress as much as we can to make wise decisions and be active members of the community,” he said.
“We want them to be equipped with the skills they’re going to need to be financially responsible.”
The Maryland Council on Economic Education has been around for 65 years; its staffers work with curriculum supervisors in Maryland’s 24 public school districts and the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“Our mission is to promote economic and financial literacy,” Executive Director Mary Ann Hewitt said.
Hewitt said MCEE staff meet with school curriculum supervisors to learn what teachers’ needs are to “better accommodate” the council’s curriculum that has been developed for teachers’ use.
She said the council has been working with George Toepfer, supervisor of social studies for Harford County Public Schools, for about 15 years, and Toepfer nominated Zubrowski for the award.
The MCEE worked with five schools in low- and moderate-income areas of Harford during the 2017-2018 school year to train teachers and get students involved in financial literacy programs. Havre de Grace Elementary was one of those schools, along with Churchville, Darlington, Meadowvale and Roye-Williams elementary schools, Hewitt said.
She said the goal is to teach students at an early age concepts such as good decision making, saving and investing, compound interest and to “pay yourself first.” Hewitt noted teachers can also benefit from such lessons as they are instructing the students.
Hewitt said “the whole school was supportive” of last spring’s financial literacy carnival at Havre de Grace Elementary.
“The entire school community wanted financial education, and then when they had this evening of financial literacy there were parents, the kids were involved with some of the things they had learned, so then it became the whole community [learning],” she said.