Guest Post from Kevin Gartman: From Technical Ed Fanatic High Schooler to Gold Standard Challenge Grantee!

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Mar 25, 2020
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Advocacy

Kevin Gartman is a passionate personal finance teacher from Montezuma High School (Montezuma, IA), the 18th high school in the U.S. to receive an NGPF Gold Standard Challenge grant for adopting a standalone graduation requirement for ALL students to cross its graduation stage. 

Here's Kevin describing Montezuma's journey to the Gold Standard in his own words.

How long have you been advocating for financial education in your school?

As I reflect on the journey that the NGPF Gold Standard challenge has taken me on, I need to rewind back to my own time in high school. As a student with a desire to always see the future application in what I was learning, I had a unique interest in the Career and Technical Education fields, as I knew I could take these skills and experiences and directly apply them to my future. Something about knowing that the material I was learning would impact me and my career excited me.

Fast-forward to the future, and I can think of no better way to impact all students than to teach them the necessary life skills they learn in personal finance.

As a fourth-year teacher in Montezuma, Iowa, I am gifted with the blessings of small town living while empowered by our school administration to remain on the cutting edge of education when it comes to our class offerings. Personal Finance had already been offered at Montezuma as an elective when I accepted the business teacher position four years ago, and I was excited to keep the class going. As I created a curriculum, pulling materials from a handful of places - and creating many from scratch - to fit the needs of my community, parents approached me at conferences with excitement about the content their children were learning. They expressed that, as we’ve all heard, they wished they would have had the material in high school.

These parent conversations led me to invite our district team to come in, take part in a class, and see what we were up to in Room 149. While the class remained an elective, my principal (now previous principal) actually suggested to all students that “this is a class you should absolutely take." So - the intent was there for all students to receive this class, but the structures still weren't in place to ensure all students would take the course until recently.

What was the catalyst for change that allowed you to be successful?

The momentum changed last summer. When I learned of the Gold Standard Challenge and grant proposal process at a FinCamp + in Iowa over the summer break, I realized the timing aligned quite well with some developments in my state.

The state of Iowa had just announced an education policy change that required all students to show proficiency in six financial literacy standards prior to graduating. While there was no required program of studies prescribed for high schools and districts to reach the standards outlined in the policy, the state department of education did recommend a few options. Schools could teach personal finance as a standalone class or embed the standards within other classes.

For Montezuma, the simplest solution was to incorporate Personal Finance as a standalone requirement. It was, after all, already a popular standalone elective that would translate easily into the framework of the new state policy change.

Any advice for fellow teachers pursuing the Gold Standard Challenge?

Especially for teachers in other small towns looking to make the leap to a Personal Finance graduation requirement, my biggest push to you is to involve your community. In our town of 1,300 people, we have a couple of banks and small businesses that are heavily invested in the town and want to see the school community succeed. As I worked to create the curriculum, I sought feedback from those businesses and community members, invited them to come visit my classroom, and shared the learning outcomes from each of the units. From there, the excitement began to spread.  

As I’ve transitioned to using NGPF’s curriculum over my few years of teaching, I have to thank the NGPF curriculum team for all their work to organize and align standards and unit plans. Being able to step in front of the school board and share my learning targets for each day, for each unit, for the whole semester, truly allowed for great conversations about what students were learning, how they were learning, and how the content aligned with the “portrait of a graduate” we were working so hard to model and identify in our school community. 

For those of you reading the blog, you’ve read this far because you care about your school community and want to see Personal Finance as a graduation requirement in action. I wish you good luck and may your passion to teach combine with your passion for improving the lives of your students as we push towards Mission: 2030! 

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Here's the latest Gold Standard Challenge grantees! 

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