Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley
One visit to Rebeca Martinez’s economics class is enough to see just how much her students enjoy it. Whether it’s the student she’s picked out as “class greeter” offering enthusiastic support as students walk into the room, or one of her exercises, like drawing your feelings — it’s clear Martinez engages her students in innovative and inspired ways that make a deep impact on their lives.
“My students inspire me every day,” says Martinez. “They inspire me with the obstacles that they overcome, their hard work, their perseverance and their work ethic.”
Martinez, who teaches economics and AP macroeconomics at Los Amigos High School, is this year’s Parenting OC Magazine Top Teacher winner. She was nominated as Top Teacher by her husband, Mario, who wrote:
“She has a passion for teaching and her creativity is unparalleled. She utilized project-based learning to encourage students to have their own passion and ownership for learning. One of her personal passions is financial literacy. She has her students create, research, sell and present their own businesses in a biannual econ fair. She gets community members and donors involved in the process by getting donations in the form of business resources, guest speakers and guest judges for her economics classes.”
Amy Avina has known Martinez for four years, since becoming school principal, and has nothing but praise for the teacher.
“Students love Ms. Martinez because she finds innovative ways to teach complex macroeconomics theories as well as the practical side of budgeting,” says Avina. “Ms. Martinez heads up The Econ Fair, a semester-long project where students develop products and plans to manufacture and sell them with a ‘Shark Tank’-style pitch session.”
Martinez says that her colleagues inspire her as well.
“My co-workers also inspire me because they are extremely talented, dedicated and exemplary teachers,” she says. “They go above and beyond for our students. I am thankful to have them as colleagues because they motivate me, lift me up and always offer a hand when needed.”
This year, Martinez headed up the Seal of Civic Engagement — an award given by the State of California for civic involvement. Her job as coordinator is to encourage and connect students with opportunities. She surpassed her goal of 100 student applicants this year and hopes to double the number next year.
Financial literacy is a big part of Martinez’s mission.
“Financial literacy has become a personal crusade of mine,” she says. “When I first started teaching economics, it was not in the standards. However, I found ways to incorporate it anyways. Now we have a short unit, but I feel it is not enough. According to a recent article I read in Business Weekly, 64 percent of adults are living paycheck to paycheck in 2022. That is unacceptable!”
She says financial literacy should be part of every student’s education. She incorporates it in a variety of ways throughout the semester. She partnered with Schools First Financial Education Department that does a series of lessons with her students throughout the semester. Topics include how to achieve financial goals, budgeting and credit. She also coordinates with Schools First to host a “Bite of Reality” with all the senior students. It is an engaging and hands-on simulation game in which students are given a fictitious job, credit score, debt and bills.
“They get a taste of what ‘adulting’ looks like while in a safe environment,” she says.
She also does a semester project with students that aligns with financial literacy, entrepreneurship and economics. Students create their own business, calculate their input costs, break-even points, total revenue and profit. Students must learn to budget and handle money as part of the project.
“My proudest teacher moments are when I hear back from my former students,” she says. “I get so excited when I hear back from a student, and they tell me they chose to major in business or economics because they liked my class. Additionally, when a student tells me they feel inspired to start their own business, I feel proud. Just side hustles for now, but they promised to come back when they are famous. Another proud moment is when students take the time to reach out to me to let me know that my class helped them in a job interview. I am just proud of my students and all they have accomplished.”
By Jessica Peralta
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