Dec 01, 2020

Middle School Teacher Billy Mills Mini Interview: I Quiz the Biz Wiz

Billy Mills is a long-time educator with 10 years of experience in his middle school business classroom at Bloomfield Middle School in Bloomfield, NJ. Mr. Mills teaches a class called Biz Wiz where he engages his students in the wild, interconnected worlds of business and finance. I Zoomed with Billy for a mini interview, which was a treat! I'm thrilled to share his insights on the NGPF blog today for middle school teachers nationwide.


Sonia: What's the mix of in-person and remote instruction at your school?

Billy Mills: At the moment, we're fully online for remote teaching. I teach 7th and 8th graders, and we meet every other day for 30 minute synchronous sessions. I've been teaching at the middle school for 10 years, and this year's lessons are definitely a time squeeze! I've learned to keep the structure of my class simple and house everything in one place for my students to help save time during remote teaching.


Sonia: What tech tools have you been using to facilitate, host assignments, and collect student work?

Billy Mills: I primarily use Google Classroom! It's great for hosting assignments and organizing all of the students' activities (I use a lot of activities from NGPF), and I also use the Google Classroom platform to collect work, grade assignments and give feedback. I'm finding with remote teaching, it's important for students to have everything in one streamlined place, like I said before. Google Classroom is that place for my classes.


Sonia: What are your go-to tabs or links on the NGPF website in general? How do you navigate all our resources to save more planning time?

Billy Mills: I have a bunch of go-to parts of the NGPF website, and I really like the variety of different resources.

My recent go-to resources are:

  • NGPF Questions of the Day for daily bell ringers
  • NGPF Data Crunches for quick math skill work and chart literacy practice
  • The FinCap Friday series for weekly current events discussions
  • Anything competitive from the NGPF Arcade. My students love STAX and the leaderboard that pops up when we play group games.


Sonia: What's your level of experience with the new NGPF Middle School Course?

Billy Mills: I've been using NGPF's high school curriculum for over 4 years now, so I've been adapting the curriculum to my students' levels for a long time. I like the format of the new middle school course because it saves me a lot of adaptation time, but also because each activity in the lessons is housed in one simple document. I still pull resources from the high school curriculum, because it's great, but I also love that the middle school lessons include enrichment ideas to help me challenge students to hit that next level in my personal finance class. It's pretty awesome! Also, about 1/3 of my students having learning disabilities or impairments, so I customize all the resources to differentiate for individual students. It's nice to have a middle school baseline curriculum to work from!


Sonia: Any advice you'd give to teachers as they dive into the middle school course?

Billy Mills: I'd say to start with the most engaging activities - for me, these are the Arcade games - to get students really hooked on your class, then build out supplemental resources that can support your students' learning from there. There are already full NGPF lesson plans in both the high school semester course and middle school 9-week course that you can pull resources from to build around those central Arcade games. As far as your own organization and time management goes, I'd also recommend that you make copies of any resources you might like to use for your upcoming units, and organize those into your existing curriculum folders in your Drive. Don't keep these lessons static though! This course is always evolving, so keep learning and finding resources to improve your lessons. That's one of the many things that make teaching personal finance fun!

About the Authors

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!

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.

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