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The People Behind the Programs: John Kessler


Kessler (far left) joins students on campus at SMU for the 2021 Economics for Leaders program.

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 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 mentor teacher John Kessler is one of the outstanding teachers who encourages FTE participants to examine economic challenges pragmatically to find win-win solutions. Learn more about Kessler below.

A dad to four children, Kessler’s favorite part of working for FTE is engaging with young people from around the world.

FTE mentor teacher John Kessler is a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics and Finance and the director of the Center for Economic Education at Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW) in Indiana. Kessler received the Peter V. Harrington award for best university-based economic education center in Indiana. He was also named “Rookie of the Year” by the Arizona Society of Economics Teachers. He specializes in teaching introductory economics and personal finance classes.

Kessler first discovered FTE at a workshop with his students at the University of Delaware. Immediately captivated by the interactive nature of the program and the passion of FTE’s mentor teachers, Kessler briefly considered how fun it would be to work at the organization. In 2007, Kessler’s quick thought turned into a reality when he was hired as a mentor teacher. He originally instructed teachers to effectively teach economic concepts to students and later began teaching student programs as well.

Kessler leads students in an activity at Economics for Leaders.

Though Kessler enjoys all aspects of his job, he especially enjoys facilitating the Ultimatum Game. This activity demonstrates how markets create incentives for people to cooperate. It teaches the importance of identifying win-win solutions rather than promoting greed. Though this is his favorite lesson, Kessler thinks each activity presents a fun and unique challenge.

Kessler enjoys connecting with the teacher participants, who he says are “some of the best economics teachers and professors in the country.” He also loves engaging in intercultural exchanges with vibrant and eager-to-learn students from all over the world.

“I leave every program inspired by the students,” he said. “I enjoy hearing about their dreams for the future; they give me hope.”

I leave every program inspired by the students. I enjoy hearing about their dreams for the future; they give me hope.” – John Kessler

In his free time, Kessler enjoys skiing with his kids.

Like many of his FTE peers, Kessler has demonstrated his passion for economics through his involvement with organizations like the Gus A. Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education at Florida State University; Certell, Inc.; the Board of Directors of the Arizona Society of Economics Teachers; and the National Council on Economic Education, among others.

He wants students to realize that economics can help them achieve their goals and make the world a better place, because it’s more than just math – it’s an integral part of our daily lives.

“It’s important to me that students not only understand the concepts, but are able to apply those concepts to the real world,” Kessler said. “The Economics for Leaders program does a great job of that.”


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