Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jennifer Simms

NHS Teacher Awarded Colorado Economics Teacher of the Year


April 13, 2017

Each spring since 1988, the Colorado Council for Economics Education (CCEE) presents the Koebel Enterprising Teacher of the Year Award to an educator who demonstrates excellence in the teaching of economics and personal financial literacy. This year the council has selected Niwot High School economics teacher Ken Benson to receive this prestigious award.

Benson currently teaches four sections of economics at NHS, two for the IB (International Baccalaureate) program and two AP (Advanced Placement) courses. Benson also sponsors the school’s Econ Club, which provides students with opportunities for in-depth study through activities like microlending and the Junior Achievement stock market challenge.

Benson didn’t start his career in education, however. Instead, he worked in high tech start-ups during the late 90’s and rode the boom and bust rollercoaster with several small companies until a friend suggested he try teaching. Benson worked in a Thornton middle school for a year while earning his alternative license, then moved to NHS, where he’s been for the last fourteen years.

Initially, Benson was hired by former principal Don Haddad to teach social studies and German. “Don said, ‘Oh, by the way our econ teacher is retiring. Would you like to take that on as well?’” Benson explained. With degrees in economics and international finance, Benson was intrigued by the opportunity, even though it would mean three different class preparations. Fortunately for NHS, Benson said yes.

“The thing that makes Mr. Benson very special is he does two things very well,” said current NHS principal Eric Rauschkolb. “First of all, he is a content expert. He knows economics forward and backward. Second, he connects with kids. He’s funny. He’s insightful. He is able to bring his ability to connect with kids alongside his ability to teach economics. Many kids complete that class knowing they want to pursue economics in college. He’s a very special teacher.”

In addition to teaching students at Niwot, Benson has worked with a team to create the St. Vrain Valley School District’s new financial literacy curriculum. He has also taught fellow economics teachers through the CCEE. “It’s one of the best professional development offerings in Colorado,” Benson said of the organization.

During the classes, Benson tag-teams with a local professor. The professor lectures on an economics topic, then Benson gives examples of how teachers might present the topic to their students. “Giving them lessons to take back to their classrooms is really fun,” Benson said.

CCEE has also given Benson the opportunity to travel overseas to South Africa and Peru to tour the county and learn how teachers there teach economics. “There are so many great opportunities through this organization,” Benson said.

Benson doesn’t yet have plans for the $2,000 prize he will receive as part of his teacher of the year award, but he does have another international trip planned this summer, this time to the UK, and he imagines the money could help expand his experiences there.

Benson is quick to give credit to his students and his colleagues at NHS for making him the teacher he is today. His formula for success: “If you love something, you get good at it, and surround yourself with good people.”


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