FinHero of the Month: Bryan Fritz (Plymouth, OH)

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Apr 02, 2019
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Advocacy

Celebrating the commitment of FinHeroes everywhere

Brave, hard-working teachers (if you're reading this, you're likely one of them!) all across this country are making strides towards a day when ALL young people have access to personal finance instruction in school, no matter the obstacle. In their honor, and with our sincere gratitude, we bring you April 2019's FinHero of the Month...

April FinHero: Bryan Fritz (Plymouth High School, Plymouth, OH)

One of the many ways a teacher-advocate can build access to personal finance broadly is to share what's worked specifically in their community. That's what Bryan has done by partnering with NGPF on his advocacy case study. His case study chronicles his progress, the challenges he's faced, and the solutions he's found on his journey to make personal finance more accessible to his students.

Beginning with a few student-requested lessons on filing taxes in his high school Economics class, Mr. Fritz is now planning a standalone elective for personal finance to launch at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Check out Bryan's FinHero teaser video, and read his full case study below! 

Read on below for Bryan's full Advocacy Case Study!

"From Nothing to Something" (Feat. Bryan Fritz)

Summary: Mr. Fritz Pushes Through Base Camp. 

Teacher Bryan Fritz of Plymouth High School started his advocacy journey by embedding personal finance content into his Economics class in his first year of teaching - three years ago - at his students’ urging. He is now planning a standalone personal finance elective next school year. In terms of the “FinHero's Journey” (pictured above), Bryan has passed “Base Camp” and will arrive at “Altitude Camp 2” next fall.

Challenges Faced & Solutions Found

In the early spring of 2018, Bryan’s economics students expressed a timely interest in learning about taxes. Most were seniors who were anxious about what they’d need to know to successfully manage their financial lives after graduation. Sensing his students’ enthusiasm for the subject, Bryan responded. He committed to incorporating more personal finance content immediately, and in his planning for the following school year.

Ohio economics standards include personal finance concepts, so the content wasn’t prohibited. Bryan added finance content freely, responding to a) increasing student requests for more real-world instruction b) what he found helpful in his quest to increase his own financial know-how.

Bryan started with basics of taxes and salary-based budgeting, and then grew from there. Being a recent college grad, Bryan’s first real stumbling block was his own comfort with the financial topics he was now committed to teach. He hadn’t covered any personal finance content in his student teaching, and he didn’t want to rely on the personal finance material in the various textbooks he had access to, as they weren’t current. Bryan became a voracious He began attending professional development workshops, including Jump$tart Ohio Trainings and National Educators’ Conference.

Bryan explains his evolution from social studies generalist to personal finance specialist: “As I became more independent in my personal life after college, I spent time trying to think of every question possible as to the ‘hows and whys’ of my own financial decisions. This helped me become a more informed educator. It is surprising the decisions people make just because they are told to without realizing why, and then how their decisions can affect them for the rest of their lives. This inward reflection gave me experience to bring more depth to my lessons.”Bryan got some early encouragement from a former student who came back to speak at a schoolwide college day event in the fall of 2017. Unprompted, the alumnus encouraged every PHS student to take Mr. Fritz’s economics class, telling them how important the embedded financial lessons he learned had been in his first year in the real world.

With the buzz growing, Mr. Fritz is now advocating for a standalone personal finance class to begin in the 2019-2020 school year.

His hypothesis: if students are willing to promote an economics course that is 3/4ths personal finance content, then demand already exists for a standalone personal finance elective. To make his case, Bryan cited the increased student engagement he’s seen since embedding personal finance concepts into economics. Having observed Bryan’s classroom both before and after this change, his administrators are supportive. In fact, the principal has already begun planning with Bryan to schedule one or two sections of the class next year, depending on demand.

If the principal and guidance counselor can schedule enough sections to meet demand, Bryan’s final step will be to lobby the school board to approve the new elective. He anticipates presenting achievement data from before and after the change, combined with the personal pleas of his students for more personal finance.

Bryan’s current challenge is competition from other electives that offer college credit.  The students themselves help Bryan in this regard, convincing their peers that his Economics class is worth taking.

The challenge in creating a standalone elective class, says Bryan, is scheduling. This is particularly difficult in a small district like Plymouth. How many semester blocks are available for elective classes? If Bryan adds this course to his schedule, what will he stop teaching in order to fit it in? Bryan is also in the midst of graduate studies that will qualify him to teach a semester Government class for college credit. When he starts teaching that class, another teacher will absorb one of his history sections, and he will use the other semester for personal finance. 

Advocacy Next Steps

Bryan’s next goal is to make the new standalone personal finance class a graduation requirement. In his district, required classes must be open to all grades so that they can fit into student’s schedules, so Bryan can’t limit attendance to juniors and seniors (who he feels get the most out of this content) but he would be happy to have that problem! In reference to the Everest Continuum, Bryan may make a brief stop at Camp 2 (adding more sections), but his school district is very small. If he is successful in advocating for a required class, he may skip straight to the Summit.

Reflections & Lessons For Others

Start with students. Convince them how helpful this know-how will be outside the classroom. From there, word will spread, classes will fill up, and administrators will take notice. With a popular class, students are your biggest advocates, so take advantage of that. You can learn the material, and the students will learn valuable lessons from your personal stories, especially about your financial mistakes and triumphs.

More About Bryan Fritz:

Bryan teaches in a small, rural school district equidistant from Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Graduating classes have hovered between 50 and 60 students, though class sizes are rising. Mr. Fritz is accredited in grades 7-12 Social Studies, which qualifies him to teach Economics, a semester-long elective course for 11th and 12th graders in his school. Bryan spends the rest of his day teaching American and World History.

About the Author

Christian Sherrill

Christian comes to NGPF from the world of classroom instruction, where he was a teacher for three years at a public middle school in El Sobrante, California. After leaving the classroom, he joined math tutoring company, Zeal Learning, to help grow their educator-facing sales and marketing efforts. He's no stranger to making a dollar stretch - while living in the Bay Area on his teacher salary he paid down over $40k in student loans in the span of 3 years. He's thrilled to share those lessons with teachers and students around the U.S.