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The People Behind the Programs: Jamie Wagner


TFAS high school programs division, the Foundation for Teaching Economics (FTE), introduces young individuals to an economic way of thinking about national and international issues. FTE also promotes excellence in economic education by helping teachers of economics become more effective educators. This mission would not be possible without the dedicated professors, mentor teachers and leadership facilitators who devote their time and energy to leading these engaging and innovative programs.

FTE is known nationally for its emphasis on active learning and the engaging activities and lessons used to teach economics. Our faculty members are high-energy individuals who breathe life into the programs they facilitate, making each program unforgettable for students and teachers alike. Their passion for teaching economics and leadership skills shines through each interaction they have with the participants, leading to lifelong lessons and lasting change in the lives of thousands of students and teachers each year.

FTE professor Dr. Jamie Wagner is one of the exceptional teachers who helps students integrate economic thinking in their everyday lives. Learn more about Wagner below.

Dr. Jamie Wagner is a dynamic FTE professor who loves making economics accessible. She earned her Ph.D. in economics and currently works as an assistant professor of economics at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She also directs the Center for Economic Education in Omaha, where she uses her skills to work with K-12 teachers to help them learn how to effectively teach economics and personal finance in active and engaging ways.

You can see Wagner’s joy and passion whenever she teaches a classroom of ambitious learners. Her primary goals as a teacher are to help students feel comfortable with using economics in their everyday lives, encourage them to think like economists, and to foster their decision-making skills.

Wagner first became acquainted with FTE as a graduate student when she attended a session on the economics of disasters. She had such a great time that she asked the instructors, the current and former directors of curriculum Debbie Henney and Kathy Ratte, respectively, how she could get involved with FTE. Wagner taught her first Economics For Leaders session in 2016 and has facilitated economics camps every summer since, including five virtual programs in summer 2020.

Though there are many things Wagner loves about her job with FTE, one of her favorite aspects is the people with whom she interacts. She has made great friends with her colleagues and loves engaging with the students she teaches. She admires their intelligence and passion and notes how exciting it is to watch them bond during their programs.

“I like watching a group of 40 or so students go from strangers to best friends throughout the week,” she said.

Although Wagner claims that every economics lesson is her favorite, she highlights two topics that are fundamental to economics: opportunity cost and supply and demand. She believes these are the most vital lessons for students to learn because they are the key to understanding economics and making better decisions in their everyday lives.

“Some of the topics that are the most impactful for students are the ideas of opportunity cost: with every decision, you have to give something up,” she begins. “Understanding this concept is really powerful for everyone. It really helps students think more critically and make more thoughtful, informed decisions. I also think the supply and demand model is important because it helps us understand how dynamic markets are and where the prices of goods and services come from.”

Understanding this concept [of opportunity cost] is really powerful for everyone. It really helps students think more critically and make more thoughtful, informed decisions.” – Dr. Jamie Wagner

In Dr. Wagner’s eyes, economics is an unequivocally important concept for everyone to understand. Even though it may seem intimidating because of its complexity, she believes it’s actually fairly simple – economics is the study of choices. We are always making choices, so we are always using economics. Understanding the theories behind the practice is what makes you a better decision-maker, which is what Wagner says it’s all about.


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