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SEHS Cook named economics teacher of the year
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John Cook was honored with the 2013 Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year Award. From left is Johns father Parker Lee Cook; his girlfriend Kirstin Kibbe; Cook; his grandmother Myrna Coffee; his mother Deborah Zodun; and stepfather Donald Zodun. - photo by Photo provided

ATLANTA — If life is a game, how do you learn the rules? You can start with a strong working knowledge of economics.

That’s what John Cook, a teacher at South Effingham High School, says. You might want to listen to him because he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to economics.

Cook is the recipient of the Georgia Council on Economic Education’s 2013 Economics Teacher of the Year Award for his imaginative and inspiring instructional style, his talent and leadership as a teacher, and the impressive performance of his students that results from his efforts.

Cook was honored at GCEE’s 41st annual luncheon meeting May 20 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He was presented with the award by Mary Flatley, President, Georgia Securities Association, along with outgoing GCEE Chair Gary Price, managing partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, incoming GCEE Chair Marie Gooding, first vice president and COO at the Atlanta Federal Reserve, and GCEE executive director David Martin.

In attendance for the presentation of the Economics Teacher of the Year Award to Cook were Effingham County Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse and Assistant Superintendent Gregory Arnsdorff. This year’s Economics Teacher of the Year recipient was joined by his girlfriend Kirstin Kibbe, mother Deborah Zodun, father Parker Lee Cook, grandmother Myrna Coffee, and stepfather Donald Zodun.

“I want to thank the Georgia Council for Economic Education for this honor,” Cook said. “In particular, Mike Raymer, Glen Blankenship, and Gary Petmecky at the Council have had a huge impact on how I teach. Their guidance and support often helped light the way for me when I got lost. I must also thank all of my students at South Effingham, as they are a constant source of inspiration, and usually teach me as much or more than I teach them.”

Rules of the game
As an economics teacher, Cook believes that economics is the backbone of our society. He thinks everyone should have a working knowledge of the subject, and that teaching students economics helps them understand the “rules of the game.” Understanding economics can help students reach a better quality of life in the future.

The best teachers are also students. Cook is still very much a student of economics, attending 13 GCEE professional development workshops, and regularly reading economics texts. He stays on top of current news and resources about economics. He also writes “Cook’s Corner,” a page on the Georgia Association of Economics Educators Web site where he shares the best online resources he can find with other teachers.

Imagination in instruction
Like many great teachers, Cook brings ideas to life in the minds of his students.

He believes economics more than any other subject lends itself to methods of instruction that allow for play, like his “Beyoncé” dance demonstrating a lesson on economic theory. Cook also created an exercise on building a price index for measuring inflation. Using instructional games, simulations, and cooperative learning activities, Cook help his students understand that economics involves decision making with real-world results and consequences.

Bringing a technological edge to his classroom, Cook uses an interactive whiteboard and clickers to administer quizzes and exams. He also creates PowerPoint lessons with economics news straight out of the headlines that are so good that other teachers ask to use them. The 2013 Teacher of the Year will sometimes assign economics-themed podcast episodes from sources like Planet Money and Freakonomics as homework.

Performance results
Mark Winters, principal at South Effingham High School, reports that Cook’s Advanced Placement students consistently achieve the highest scores of all students at South Effingham taking AP exams in all subject areas. Cook’s students also have the highest scores in the Effingham County School System on the economics portion of Georgia’s End of Course Test.

“It is clear that Mr. Cook’s instructional strategies not only engage students,” Winters said. “They produce results for his students on exams.”