Dec 15, 2020

Mini Interview with Anne O'Renick: 3 Week Personal Finance & Parent Engagement Sprint!

Anne O'Renick is a middle school civics teacher at Orange Park Junior High School in Orange Park, Florida. Earlier this fall, we 'Zoomed' with Anne to learn more about her classroom, how she fits personal finance instruction into her already packed civics curriculum, how she engages students and parents together, how she uses her favorite tech tools, and more.

In a twist of fate (or did we plan this all along?), TODAY is the release of a new resource for which we owe inspiration in large part to Anne: NGPF's Parent Newsletter Templates, which you can also use to engage parents in conversations about finance!

More on that below. Here's our mini interview to help you learn more about Mrs. O'Renick and her awesome class!

Sonia & Christian: What's the mix of in-person vs. remote instruction at your school?

Anne O'Renick: This fall, students and teachers have the option to be fully remote or part remote, part in-person. My school day happens in the school building, but about half of each of my classes are remote while the other half is in class, socially distanced. So I teach in a hybrid model where a small group of students in class are working through the same lessons as the remote students. My class is a general Civics class for 7th grade students, but once they finish their exams at the end of each semester, I usually have about 3 weeks to work in more 

Sonia & Christian: How do you facilitate that? It sounds like a beast.

Anne O'Renick: Nearpod is my go-to tech platform this year. Students on Chromebooks in class AND students on their devices at home can all log into the same lesson and we can progress together. Then we just "connect" the two classes with Google Meet. I use Google Classroom to host all the class links and assignments. Google Classroom also integrates well with Nearpod.

Sonia & Christian: How do you navigate the NGPF website, and the NGPF curriculum?

Anne O'Renick: I primarily use Middle School Course page. It's the easiest place to find what I'm looking for, since I'm usually searching for full lessons for middle school, which are all mapped out on the middle school course map!

So far, I've been experimenting with various lessons, adding them into Nearpod, and facilitating them with students since the spring before the full middle school course was released. This fall is actually the first time I'm using the "finished product" middle school course from NGPF.

Sonia & Christian: What's been the response from your students?

Anne O'Renick: Every time we get to the end of my course after exams, we spend 3 weeks or so on financial literacy. I wish I had more time to dedicate to financial topics in the course because, without fail, my students always ask me, "why aren’t we learning more of this?”

They were so engaged in the spring when I taught financial literacy, even though there wasn’t a whole lot of accountability during the fast transition to remote learning. This fall, I've been taking my financial literacy instruction a step further by sending home discussion questions in Choice Boards. I find different resources that quickly illuminate a topic, then create discussion prompts that go with each resource. The idea is that students open these choice boards (it's a simple Google Doc with links to the resources - videos, EdPuzzles, interactives, games, etc.) at home and discuss the different topics with their families.

This is a big part of my effort to facilitate learning across the generations in our community. I truly think personal finance can make a multi-generational impact, and when I put the idea on FinLit fanatics, it seemed to have struck a chord! I've received great feedback from parents, students, and fellow teachers on the initiative.

Learn all about Anne's unique parent discussion prompts, complete with her discussion Choice Boards, on the FinLit Fanatics! facebook group.

Sonia & Christian: Any advice you'd give to teachers who also have a relatively short block of time to teach personal finance within another course?

Anne O'Renick: I'd say that any community event where you get to meet other teachers is going to be inspiring. I've been loving the Virtual PDs on middle school curriculum that generally attract middle school teachers, since we can talk shop from similar perspectives. Those teachers give me a good idea of which topics are "must know" and which topics are "nice to know" within the larger personal finance curriculum, given that the main constraint is time. If I went through the the full middle school curriculum from start to finish, it'd take up at least half a semester, so this "trimming" process is really important. Other teachers in NGPF Virtual PDs and on FinLit Fanatics have been lifesavers.

About the Authors

Christian Sherrill

Former teacher, forever financial education nerd. As NGPF's Director of Growth & Advocacy, Christian is laser-focused on our mission to guarantee all students a rigorous personal finance course before crossing the high school graduation stage. Having paid down over $40k in student loans in the span of 3 years - while living in the Bay Area on an entry level teacher's salary - he's eager to help the next generation avoid financial pitfalls one semester at a time.

Sonia Dalal

Sonia has always been passionate about instruction and improving students' learning experiences. She's come a long way since her days as a first grader, when she would "teach" music and read to her very attentive stuffed animals after school. Since then, she has taught students as a K-12 tutor, worked in several EdTech startups in the Bay Area, and completed her Ed.M in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is passionate about bringing the high quality personal finance content and instruction she wished she'd received in school to the next generation of students and educators. When she isn't crafting lesson guides or working with teachers, Sonia loves to spend her time singing, being outdoors, and adventuring with family and friends!

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