Notre Dame Preparatory Teacher Takes Part in Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
Experience can be the best of teachers! Recently, economics and macroeconomics teacher at Notre Dame Preparatory High School, Sheila Martinez embarked on an engaging two day educational trip to San Francisco.
Martinez was accepted to the Education Advisory Group for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Education Outreach Program. The program is focused on further understanding of the Fed and Monetary Policy. While she was there, she interacted with the head of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen, among others. Best of all, Martinez will now take her newly acquired knowledge and bring that back to her students, where she will incorporate it into her classroom curriculum in various ways.
“This past year I was on the Arizona Council for Economic Education on their teacher advisory committee, which I was chosen for,” says Martinez. “I found out through another teacher that this opportunity was available and I thought for a number of months that I wanted to apply for it.” She was among many applicants from across the Western United States to apply to go on the trip, having first to provide a resume, a written essay and an explanation of how she would use the information gathered from a potential trip within her own classroom at Notre Dame Prep. Ultimately, Martinez was chosen for the trip.
“It’s a year-long commitment and I’ll be going back to San Francisco in the fall,” Martinez explains. “I’ll be meeting with the San Francisco Fed’s president and vice president then, but this trip was amazing!”
A Unique Experience
“We had a webinar with Janet Yellen,” says Martinez. “Ahead of time, we were able to send in questions. We had this wonderful conversation. She used to be the President of the San Francisco Fed. It was great to see her reaction during this webinar, and it was wonderful to listen to her take on everything.” There were 20 teachers for each of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts chosen to participate.
Martinez is excited to bring great and valuable information back to her students. “Just about everything that I learned I can include in my macroeconomics class, especially my AP macroeconomics, because those students have to learn a great deal about our monetary system,” says Martinez, who also teaches world geography and, “Ethics, Economy and Entrepreneurship,” a dual-enrollment class in conjunction with University of Arizona.
With many different political viewpoints present during the trip, Martinez notes that everyone acted with diplomacy. “The Federal Reserve Bank is nonprofit. They are not owned by the government,” says Martinez. “When you hear the rhetoric that they are going to ‘Close The Fed,’ they can’t. They could close the Board of the Directors and not listen to them, but they can’t close The Fed. It is its own entity.”
Martinez continues, “It’s interesting. One of the things I didn’t realize is when Yellen and the Board made the decision in December to raise interest rates; they anticipate that we won’t even feel the effect of that for a year or 18 months. For those expecting a sudden change; it’s not going to happen right away.”
Special Guests and a Visit to an Iconic Building
While on her educational San Francisco trip, Martinez says she learned more in those two days, than she did in college. “The discussion started with some basic economics. Kevin J. Lansing, a professor from UCLA came in to discuss one of his interesting papers on where he thought we were headed, and why he thinks our economy is fine. He stated that our unemployment rate is where we want it to be, and that our GDP is fine. He questioned if the United States was heading toward a ‘caste’ system of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and what caused us to get there? “That was really interesting,” Martinez says. Technology and globalization were two sources that were brought up as catalysts in the scenario.
“I really didn’t know enough about The Fed,” Martinez says. “I guess it’s always just kind of been kept quiet, almost like nobody wants to know what’s going on with our money system.” After being there, She was able to pick up on what it was really all about. In her classes at Notre Dame Prep, Martinez does talk a lot with the students about monetary policy, and how the Federal Reserve Bank works. “Our students need to know this information,” she says. “I think that’s what gave me the passion to write my application to begin with.”
The Federal Reserve Bank where the teachers met is a huge building in San Francisco and the group stayed at the Hyatt located directly across the street. Martinez notes that the security to get into the Federal Reserve Bank building was even more stringent than the security process at the airport. “We had to be escorted everywhere!” she says.
On the second day of the trip they talked about Federal Reserve education system. “That was the cool part,” explains Martinez. They have information on their website that students and teachers can use. There is a game where students get to play “Janet Yellen” and make the decisions – ‘Do I raise the rates?’ ‘Do I lower the rates?’ Then they get to see the effect of their decision. “There are some other resources they gave me while I was there about colleges and personal finance,” she says. “It was awesome.”
Martinez and the group of teachers also took a tour of The Federal Reserve Bank building, going down into the basement where the money is processed. “Once a year, the Federal Reserve Bank commissions the Bureau of Engraving for money,” she notes. “They don’t do the coins, they just do the cash. They make a decision ahead of time how much cash they will need, how much money they have to retire and what they’re going to do with it.” Billions and billions are brought in and banks across the Western U.S. borrow it.
Martinez explains what seeing that kind of money was like. “Basically, when we went in, we weren’t allowed to take anything with us. We had to keep our hands out of our pockets and there were two armed guards. It was really wild. They told us that where the guards stay, they even have a shooting range! They have big bins that they bring the money in from the armored cars. One of those can hold upwards of three to four million dollars, depending on the denomination.”
Martinez particularly liked that there was even an area in the building for kids that gave the basics on money and what their role is in the overall economy. “When I left, my mine was blown! I want to bring this all back to my students,” she says.
She will go back to San Francisco in the fall. “At that point, we’ll get to meet the President of the San Francisco Fed and the vice president, too. It’s partially a follow-up and to see how they can help us from that point, forward.”
Notre Dame Preparatory High School
Opened in 2002, Notre Dame Prep. is a Catholic diocesan college preparatory high school with a co-ed enrollment of about 920 students. The school has received national recognition for the caliber of its academic and athletic programs. The school is located at 9701 E. Bell Road in Scottsdale. For more information or to schedule a tour of the spacious campus, visit www.ndpsaints.org or call (480) 634-8200.