Lauren Shifflett ’10 won the 2021 John Morton Award as the most outstanding elementary economics educator in the nation. The award is given annually by the Council for Economic Education to honor teachers whose innovative pedagogy strengthens economic and financial education.
“As educators, we focus on reading and math, which are important as adults,” says Shifflett. “But everyone has to deal with money in life. It is the building block that is forgotten.”
Shifflett, a fourth-grade teacher at South River Elementary School in Grottoes, Va., enjoys using her creativity to meet the challenges of teaching complex topics. Her award-winning classroom project, Shifflett Superville, was created after realizing that students don’t typically see cash flow; most transactions today are done with debit and credit cards. Her hands-on project enables students to better understand concepts of the economy.
In Shifflett Superville, students get paid to come to “work” each day. Believing that decision-making is key to economics, students are first tasked with creating a city out of boxes. To decorate the boxes, they can use crayons they already own or spend their earnings to buy paint. Students also learn about spending and planning—and the essential skill of putting needs before wants.
Understanding the impact of multidisciplinary education, Shifflett engages concepts of communities and the power of working together. By giving students real-life experiences through unique lessons, she can keep them engaged and connected, deepening their knowledge.
“My lessons are always about community, about building each other up and helping each other succeed,” she says.
Shifflett was a liberal studies major at Bridgewater College. She credits Professor Emeritus Dr. David Coffman for giving her the expertise and confidence to be a competent teacher. Shifflett says she is not a good test-taker, but Coffman encouraged her to persevere. Today, she shares a similar message with her own students: Don’t let a test define you; just keep trying.
“I almost gave up and changed majors, and now I am a number one teacher in the country,” Shifflett says.
Shifflett’s students undoubtedly benefit from her bold ideas and community-based approach to learning. From her time at Bridgewater, she knows well the benefits of a strong support system and how far that carries into the future.
— By Kylie Lehman Mohler ’03