Mt. Hebron High
Howard County Public Schools
When students at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City first walk into Vann Prime’s AP Economics classroom, many don’t know what to expect. To them, economics might mean complex accounting or business earnings’ analyses. But when class begins, they’re captivated.
Vann is telling a story of how Mexico City, one of the world’s most polluted cities, enacted a law where citizens can only drive every other day based on their license plate numbers. The animated class discussion ranges from possible license plate forgeries to the implications of buying another car. Through it all, Vann links students’ observations to fundamental economic concepts like scarcity, opportunity cost, incentives and unintended consequences.
To students who expected to be learning wonky formulas or complicated concepts, the conversation may have been surprising. But if you ask Vann, who is now in his 19th year of teaching, it shouldn’t be.
“Economics concepts are applicable to everyone at every moment of their life. It's about the choices we make every day. I teach students by focusing on the basics and applying them to real world experiences. In a decade, they may not remember the intricacies of monetary policy, but if they can remember concepts like scarcity, costs and benefits, and demand, they’ll make better decisions in life. Economics is the intellectual underpinning for good decision making - including in personal finance.”
More than 150 Mount Hebron students take the elective class each year, making it one of the largest AP Economics programs in Maryland. Vann works with MCEE to leverage educational resources, and his students compete in MCEE’s Economics Challenge - Mount Hebron students have won the Maryland Economics Challenge state championship 18 times and the national championship seven times, including last year! “We've grown a very close relationship over the years. I would do anything to help MCEE and to promote economics education statewide. It’s so important.“
Vann’s impactful teaching is garnering attention. Last year, he won the Council on Economic Education’s John Morton Award - a prestigious national honor for excellence in the teaching of economics - stemming from nominations by MCEE of our state’s strongest educators.
Says Vann, “It's so vital to good citizenship and making good human beings to understand that nothing is free; if kids can embrace that, I'm happy. This kind of learning is one of the greatest educational gifts we could pass on to young people.”