September 30, 2015
Section: News (Local)
Educator's Stock Rising
BROADWAY - A Rockingham County teacher is getting national recognition for his lessons that blend social studies with economics.
Allen Ruliffson, a world history teacher at J. Frank Hillyard Middle School, is getting the 2015 John Morton Excellence in the Teaching of Economics Award by the Council for Economic Education for the middle school level.
The $1,000 award recognizes educators "whose innovative teaching concepts improve and stimulate economic understanding in and out of their classrooms and achieve results," according to the council's website.
"A lot of it is stuff you've done career-wise," he said of the honor.
Ruliffson, 35, of Broadway, taught economics and civics until this year. Curriculum changes caused him to transition to a history job. But he said he still discusses economic principles that don't rely so heavily on numbers and mathematics.
Ruliffson said he disagrees with the "Jeopardy!" game show model of history that focuses on memorization of facts and dates. The "whys" of history and people's motivation for doing things are what he's concerned with.
One of his past projects - included in his application for the economics award - required students to pitch a modern product to a customer base from the turn of the 20th century. Products ranged from firearms and cars to what he called "random things."
"So [students] need to really know who their customer is to decide how the product would be best used," he said. "Two of my favorites, I would say, one was about deodorant and the other was about sweatpants."
Ruliffson uses Macbooks in his class as part of the division's digital conversion program, which supplies teachers with electronic devices. The devices are used to play games, use software and blog. On Tuesday, his students jumped in the lesson with a fast-paced quiz online, testing their ability to distinguish cottage systems from factory ones.
Ruliffson will receive his award in person at the council's 54th annual Financial Literacy and Economic Education Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Oct. 7 to 10. Also planning to attend is Lynne Stover. Stover, associate director of program for the James Madison University Center for Economic Education, nominated Ruliffson for the award.
Stover knew Ruliffson through teacher workshops and said he periodically came to her as a resource for classroom ideas. This is the second time she nominated him for the award; two years ago, she nominated him for a state-level honor, but he didn't win.
This year, because he was measured against only middle school instructors rather than all K-12 teachers, Stover said, "he's going to be the shining star."
Stover described Ruliffson as an able motivator for his students and a good writer, and she praised the way he used technology in his lessons.
"He infuses humor in it," she said. "And when you want to engage middle school kids ... you've got to be an entertainer."
Contact Amelia Brust at 574-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reposted with permission.