Why I Love Teaching Personal Finance -- from Fellow Kelly-Anne Rush
Teachers who attend our Summer Institute in Palo Alto become NGPF Fellows the following school year -- this Fellowship includes presenting with us at PD sessions, offering NGPF feedback on products, writing guest blog posts, ... the list goes on. Today features a passionate, compelling blog post on the joy of teaching personal finance from Kelly-Anne Rush of Windham High School in Windham, Maine. Here's what Kelly-Anne has to say...
Why I Love Teaching Personal Finance
Six years ago my department leader came to me and asked if I’d be willing to take on the challenge of creating the curriculum for a new semester course in personal finance that all seniors would need to take before graduating. As any educator knows, teaching a new course can be daunting because many hours will be devoted to finding, creating, and implementing quality curriculum. My department leader buttered me up a bit by saying she thought I had the ‘creativity and energy’ needed to get kids excited about financial literacy- so how could I say no to that? As it turns out, six years and 12 semesters later, teaching financial literacy has been one of the best experiences I could have wanted as an educator, and here’s why:
Teaching Practical Skills is Rewarding
As much as I enjoy teaching U.S. history or other topics that fall under the umbrella of ‘social studies’ there’s just something incredibly satisfying about being able to teach practical, hands-on skills that I KNOW my students will use immediately. I’ve never heard ‘when will I use this’ or ‘why do we have to know this’ from any student in my personal finance classes, no small feat coming from a room full of (sometimes) ornery teenagers! They can use the skills learned in class immediately in their everyday lives and when I receive messages from former students who tell me they are using the information learned in class out in the ‘real world’, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Personal Finance is Fun and Engaging
The topic of financial literacy allows for incredible engagement from students because most are already earning and managing their finances to some extent. They naturally have lots of questions during class and genuinely want to know more about each topic presented, which is such an exciting opportunity as their teacher to build upon that natural curiosity. Whether it’s creating a real budget based on their current earnings, participating in an ‘apartment renting’ simulation, or trying to guess ‘name brand or store brand’ during a taste test activity, teaching personal finance also allows for so many fun and engaging lesson ideas.
Financial Literacy Improves the Community
With student loan debt now in the trillions and financial literacy skills on the decline, it’s now more important than ever to have quality financial literacy courses in every community. When students learn how to make smart decisions with their finances, understand the consequences of various financial decisions, and see the ‘big picture’ of how individual choices can also impact the community on a broader scale, we all benefit from this increased knowledge of personal finance. My students take what they’ve learned in class and bring it home to their families, engaging in meaningful conversations about smart financial choices. As a financial literacy educator, it’s rewarding to know that I am making a difference in not only the lives of my students, but inadvertently working toward improving the economic climate in both my local and broader communities.
Self-Improvement Opportunities Abound
I can honestly say that teaching, in general, makes me a more patient, more knowledgeable, and more well-rounded person. Having the opportunity to teach financial literacy has made a difference in the management of my own finances. Being asked to teach this course has required that I do a great deal of research, inevitably improving my own understanding of a wide variety of financial topics. Providing the best quality education I can for my students has also given me opportunities to hear from a variety of community members, from investment bankers to insurance agents, each experts in their own fields. When my students don’t understand something or have questions to which I don’t know the answer, I expand my knowledge base once again by finding the answers and engaging in meaningful conversations. I’m constantly being given opportunities to learn and grow by teaching personal finance.
To any teacher who may be presented with the opportunity to teach personal finance classes, I would emphatically say ‘DO IT’!! Although it may seem daunting at first, you will be a better person for it and your students and community will thank you!
About the Authors
When I started working at Next Gen Personal Finance, it's as though my undergraduate degree in finance, followed by ten years as an educator in an NYC public high school, suddenly all made sense.
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