NGPF Celebrates: Tara Schoeny, Sycamore High School (OH)

May 05, 2015
Personal Finance, Teaching Strategies, Schools In News, Front Page Spotlight

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week 2015, NGPF is celebrating the hard work and commitment to personal finance education exhibited by our nation’s teachers by featuring just a few members of our NGPF educator community. 

Featured Teacher: Tara Schoeny, personal finance teacher

School: Sycamore High School, Montgomery, Ohio

What is your favorite part of teaching personal finance?

I would have to say, my favorite part about teaching personal finance is the real world skills it gives my students. I always start out the course by asking students how many of them want to go to college, have a job, move out of their parent’s house, etc. Students raise their hands for at least one, if not all, of the statements.

This leads into our conversation about why the class is so important. We discuss how no matter what field they get into, how much money they make, or what part of the country they live in they need to know how to manage their personal finances. I emphasize that the information and skills learned in this class will help them no matter what road they take after high school.


Share some details about your absolute best personal finance lesson.

My absolute personal finance lesson is the budget project I have my students complete at the end of our financial planning and money management unit. The project has students complete a monthly budget for two different careers, one where students have a higher level of education and one where they are limited to careers that only require a high school diploma.

Students are able to choose careers they are interested, live in the city of their dreams (has to stay the same for both careers), and budget for everything from houses to cell phone bills to pet care. As they go along, using online calculators and researching monthly costs, they input them into excel sheets to make sure they are not spending over their monthly net pay.

Students are always amazed at how much goes into being on your own and having a budget. Many students comment on how grateful they are for their parents, and are always surprised by how much money they lose to taxes!

In the end they can compare the kind of lifestyle a higher education gives them, and also have the skills to organize a budget so they are saving and investing each month.


What has been your greatest accomplishment as a personal finance teacher? 

One of my greatest accomplishments as a personal finance teacher was last year after a lesson on saving for retirement. Many times it can be challenging to teach teenagers, who many times have never had a job, about retirement plans and saving early.

I went through the lesson giving students information about all of the retirement vehicles and the power of compound interest. After I was finished, we played a game about the different plans and went on to review. I thought the lesson had gone well (but not amazing) and was pleased with the students’ knowledge.

The next week a student, who was generally pretty shy in class, came up to tell me that he had started a Roth IRA with the help of his parents. He brought in his account information and excitedly showed me his plan to put 10% of the money from his job and 50% from birthday/holiday money into the account each year.

Together we went through and plugged in some numbers to a compound interest calculator to really see how much money he would have when he retired when he was 65.

This was an amazing experience as a teacher because I was able to make an immediate impact on a student’s financial habits. In that moment, I knew that what I was teaching was reaching my students and influencing their future success.

Tara was one of our Financial Literacy Month Contest winners! Click here to learn more about her award winning resource. 

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About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.