Aug 25, 2023

NGPF Podcast: Amanda Volz on Back to School Tips and Tricks

In case you missed it: Amanda Volz was the first teacher to ever create an NGPF Teacher Account! For years she has used NGPF curriculum, given feedback to the NGPF team, and even joined the NGPF team! Who better to share the top ways to prepare for a new school year of financial education with all new students?


Ren Makino: Hi, this is Ren from Next Gen Personal Finance and you're listening to the NGPF podcast. Today on the show, Tim is joined by the one and only Amanda Volz. She joins us on the show to talk about her experience as a teacher, her tips and tricks for the back to school season and more. Listen to this discussion to hear a lot of wonderful advice on creating a classroom environment comfortable for all students. Enjoy!

Tim Ranzetta: Alright folks, welcome to the NGPF Speaker Series. Welcome to the '23-'24... Is it '23-'24 already, Amanda? 

Amanda Volz: Yes. Crazy isn't it? Summer went by just like that, I feel like. 

Tim Ranzetta: It really did. It really did. So folks, welcome, welcome to the Speaker series you. We have an extra special treat today with Amanda Volz, she's gonna talk about thinking about back to school and it's a good time for.

You know, thinking about all of the practices that we currently use, but also really sharing some new ideas to reenergize the work that you all are doing in the classroom. So I guess just to kick things off, Amanda, do you wanna start for those who, who may not be familiar with who you are, what you do, your background, the floor is yours. 

[00:01:14] Amanda's Background.

Amanda Volz: Yeah. Who is Amanda Volz? Some of you're like, I just signed up for the speaker series 'cause it's about back to school. I don't know who this lady is.

Hi everybody. We've done lots of PD sessions. So, I'm Amanda Voltz and I live in Michigan, is where I'm from, and I have taught personal finance for 20 plus years here in Michigan. So I guess some background, I guess. I started teaching the course as a semester long course.

It used, it was called Consumer Education is when I first like started teaching it. And then it evolved throughout the years and now it is a year long course. I would teach financial management all day year long course. It just kind of grew in popularity over the years.

And I found NGPF, Tim, I don't even know, maybe, you know, what year it was? It was at a jumpstart conference. I connected with Tim in the NGPF team at that time, what was it, 2015? 

Tim Ranzetta: It would've been 2015. And there were... three of us. 

Amanda Volz: Three? I was just gonna say that it was a team of three at NGPF.

And so prior to that, I was, I was teaching the course, I was creating a lot of my own materials. Like I was the only teacher teaching it, creating all the things myself and searching for ideas. And I remember finding NGPF at the Jumpstart conference and thinking like, this is so amazing. Like this is such an amazing, like organization and curriculum.

And so we've just kind of worked together from there. Like, I think I reached out with like, "Hey, I'm happy to help with anything and I would give you feedback on different things." And it just sort of stemmed into some projects throughout the years. So that's, I guess, a little background on how I connect with NGPF, but also my background is being a personal finance teacher, so...

Tim Ranzetta: Okay.

So that's the understatement of the century. I just kind of help a little bit here and... okay? Number one, if you haven't seen the teacher tip videos, absolutely check them out, 'cause that's Amanda kind of walking you through how to do specific NGPF activities. If you haven't taken her certification course I'm paying for college, please.

That is such an important topic to teach and Amanda does a great job. And then the third is just virtual, virtual PDs and all the help you've given on curriculum. So Amanda also holds another claim to fame. Oh, which she is teacher account number one. Yes. It's at one point we put up ability to set up a teacher account.

We probably had it up on our website for a couple of weeks, like crossing our fingers, like, okay, who's gonna sign up? Who's gonna sign up? And as luck would have it, it was Amanda. And I can tell you anytime you do a startup, Those early adopters are so important in laying down the tracks and giving you direction and giving you feedback what's good, and probably more importantly, what's not good or what can you do better.

And so, yeah, this is my chance to thank Amanda for you know, helping us get to where we are. By the way, if you haven't seen the numbers, Amanda was teacher number one. I believe we recently crossed the 84,000 teacher mark. 

Amanda Volz: That's awesome. I didn't even know I was teacher number one till I think you announced it at a conference and I I, you were, I think you made announcement and I'm just sitting there like not, you know, I had no idea that it was that.

See, that was back in the days when I was creating everything myself, scouring the internet, looking for, you know, activities and all of that. Signing up for everything. Yeah. So that's great. Yeah, we've had a great, great working relationship over the years. 

Tim Ranzetta: Absolutely. Okay, so let's start with, we're talking about new school year here.

Let's start first with the physical classroom itself. What were kind of, how would you set up a classroom to make it so conducive to, to learning about money? 

[00:04:55] Amanda's Way of Setting Up Her Classroom.

Amanda Volz: Yeah. So I will say, and again, I mentioned I've been teaching this for a long time, so I'm in the like veteran years of 20 years of teaching it, and in my early years I used to spend so much time studying up my classroom.

And some of you that have taught for a while, maybe you're in a similar boat. We're used to spend so many hours. Like here in Michigan, we start school in September. So we don't start until like September. Well, in my district in Michigan here we don't start until like September 6th or so. And I would go in like beginning of August and just like spend so much time in my classroom setting up.

And over the years I've done less of that and I really just try to make my classroom as comfortable of an environment as I can for students. I want them to feel comfortable and I display as much student work as I can. Instead of me spending so many hours decorating and all the posters and all the things and all that.

I've done less of that I guess over the years. And now I try and display more student work and maybe my walls are a little more bare at the beginning of the year, but we fill them with things like throughout the year. One of the best things I did, and I only did this maybe two years ago, but I think it's one of the smartest things I did is outside of my classroom there was just like a bare wall there.

And I asked my principal if I could hang a bulletin board outside my classroom and it's a perfect place for me to hang student work and it's just great marketing for my course. So I honestly didn't think of that for like 17 years and I just thought of it a couple years ago and it's the best thing.

I'll see students out there looking at, you know, different work. We'll do something on like The buying a car project that NGPF has, if any of you have seen that, where they buy a car and at the end I have 'em create like a flyer of the car that they've researched with all the information. Yeah.

Students are always out looking at that and, and, you know you know, commenting and it's just great marketing, I think, for the course. So again, I hang up a bunch of student work. I do think if you are looking for like posters and things like that federal Reserve, I think, has some posters. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has some infographic posters that I've hung up as well. So yeah, I keep it pretty simple now. 

Tim Ranzetta: Yeah, I recall also, 'cause I think we pulled a couple of these off FinLit Fanatics.

Were there any other student activities that worked particularly well other than buying a car for posting, posting student? 

Amanda Volz: Buying a car is the one that immediately comes to my brain. I mean, I do something with stocks, so this isn't really a NGPF activity, but it kind of goes with the curriculum.

I have students track like a stock for a week just to start learning about what stocks are and fluctuation of price and you know, what some of the information on a stock chart is. And so they'll do that and then I'll have 'em create, I call 'em stock stats. I have 'em create like, it's just like a little dollar sign and it has some stats about the stock and I hang those in the hallway.

And, and students walk by and love those. And I've also Had students create college penance. I think someone may have mentioned that in the chat. I shared it on FinLit Fanatics as well. So when I'm teaching my paying for college unit, I really wanna introduce them to tools that are gonna be helpful to them that they can put in their toolbox and use throughout as they're making those big decisions.

And one of 'em is college scorecard. And so I have them create a penant of information from the college scorecard tool and I'll display those in the hallway and yeah, the students like that. So those are some key ones. The other place or the other thing that the, the bulletin board kinda outside the classroom is great for is financial literacy month.

If you do anything within your school for like financial literacy month displaying some of that information in the hallway again, it was, I felt like it was just a great thing that, I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier. In, in just marketing and sharing some of the student work. 

Tim Ranzetta: I'm gonna ask for a second second explanation on- you mentioned, college scorecard- just to let people know what, what exactly that is. 

Amanda Volz: College Scorecard is just a great tool. There's lots of good information on there where. Students can compare different colleges. And it just has a, a bunch of different information on costs, on acceptance rates, on demographics, on graduation rates based on, there's just a salary based on programs.

I mean, there's just so much information that I don't know if I mentioned this at the beginning, but my class is mostly 12th graders, so I have those senior students and so college is one of their next big decisions. And again, I try and give 'em lots of tools to make that. And so college scorecard is a great one and I have 'em make a penant from some of that information.

Tim Ranzetta: Awesome. Sorry, we could, this conversation can, can go in a lot of different directions. 

Amanda Volz: Sure. We could talk Paying for college though. Yeah. 

Tim Ranzetta: So this is, this can be a very challenging subject to teach when you have a classroom, you have a school where the demographics are range from, you know, lower income to higher income.

And I think particularly in a classroom like this, the more student talk, the more discussion that happens, the richer the experience can be. How do you set up that classroom culture on day one to encourage participation, nonjudgmental, I mean, all the things that are really important when we're talking about, about money.

[00:10:21] Setting Up A Nonjudgemental Classroom Culture.

Amanda Volz: Yeah. I think it goes back to that like first day, I have a PD on ideas for the first day of school, and one of the things that I do in that PD is I ask how you are feeling about the start of the school year.

So like how are you all feeling school's almost starting here. How are you all feeling? We have mixed emotions, right? Some of us are super excited, some of us are anxious, some of ours are stressed. Our students are feeling that too. So they're all coming in with all of those emotions as well. And then I also ask in that PD session, how do you want students to feel after they leave on the first day of your class?

And many of you're saying you want them to feel comfortable and excited and you know, like all of, you know, we want them to have all of those things. So I think of that on that first day is I want them to leave really excited that they're taking the course and wanna learn more, but also that they're comfortable in the classroom.

So I try and do some activities on that first few days of school that get 'em, like into the, into the content a little bit where they're like, oh, I wanna learn about this. Like, I'm excited about this. But they also feel comfortable. I'm not putting 'em on the spot. They feel comfortable in the classroom.

Tim Ranzetta: I think you had something to do with this first day of school ideas too, right? 

Amanda Volz: The PD session? 

Tim Ranzetta: Yeah. As, and there's a blog post out there, I think has been one of the popular blog posts. 

Amanda Volz: Yeah, I mean, I'm always, I love sharing ideas. I say that in the PD sessions as well, like I think it stems from me being just my solo department.

And one of the ways that I've definitely grown as an educator is by working with other people within the community and within the network. And you just get so many great ideas. So I love collaborating with teachers and share. I'm always willing to share ideas and, you know, collaborate together. So, yeah.

Tim Ranzetta: Oh, when are you gonna be running that first day of school PD again For those who, yeah.

[00:12:14] Amanda's First Day of School PD.

Amanda Volz: Where you we're having it at our back to school conference. So if you didn't know NGPF is gonna have a back to school conference on October 26th. It's a Saturday conference, and so one of the sessions will be the ideas for the first day of school.

I'll probably mention 'em, some of 'em in today's speaker series. But yeah, we share, we collaborate together and share lots of great ideas. 

Tim Ranzetta: Good news folks. You won't have to wait till October...

Amanda Volz: Oh, I'm sorry y'all. Yeah. Did I say October? Yes. Sorry. August 26th. 

Tim Ranzetta: August 26th. We're a week away. Alright let's talk about classroom routines 'cause those can be helpful for teachers as well as for students. And I wondered kind of some of your favorite routines. 

[00:12:54] Amanda's Favorite Classroom Routines.

Amanda Volz: So when students come in my room, I always have, we have smart boards like in, in our, in our district.

And so I'll always have on the board, and again, I teach 12th graders, so this works for the group that I work with, but I'll always have something for them to kinda pique their interest or get them discussing. A lot of times I'll use NGPFs question of the day, so they're kind of discussing what they think the answer is, a perfect bell ringer, or maybe even something that's kind of current events in the news.

I'll have that like on, on the smart board, but I always put on there where they sit and what they need for the hour so they can like come in the door. Look at the smart board, know that either they have to sit at their assigned seat, which I can talk about that in just a second, how I do it, or if they can choose their own seat, because I guess something else that's kind of cool about my classroom is a few years ago I was chosen to receive a grant to redesign my classroom in a 21st century kind of classroom.

So super fortunate to have a very collaborative kind of space. And I try and use that to my advantage with 12th graders. So sometimes I'll let them sit where they choose where they're gonna be most productive to work. And I'll always kind of display that when they walk in. So what do you need? You need a calculator, you need your Chromebook, where you need to sit, and then there's kind of a, a question for them to discuss a bit on the board.

How I do my seating charts... maybe this'll work for some of you? I got away from like traditional seating charts, so when they have to sit at their assigned seat, what I've transitioned into is I do numbers instead. So I assign each student a number in like the first week or so of school, and that's. I will put numbers at each seating spot.

All I do is print off, you know, those elementary calendar numbers. Do you all know what I'm talking about? Like for elementary school, you can get all this calendar. I just find those and then I print them off. And so my student always knows, well, I'm number three and I have to sit at my assigned, you know, like, sit at your number.

They'll sit at number three. And it allows me to mix up the groups very easily. And I always strategically have certain numbers for students who need preferred seating or whatnot in the classroom. But that's something I've done due to my classroom environment. But I also like to mix things up a lot.

I like to seat them in different places and rearrange groups and whatnot. And so I went away from like, A traditional seating chart to now every seat has a number and every student has a number and it allows me to kinda mix things up a little bit. Yeah, I just tape 'em down. I just tape 'em on the table.

'cause I have tables, not individual desks, but it would work with individual desks as well. So yeah, I just tape the numbers and then rearrange 'em as I need to, so. 

Tim Ranzetta: How often are you doing those groups? 

Amanda Volz: Probably more frequently than students like. I think I'm just the type of teacher where I just like to do things differently.

Like I don't just recycle things every year. I like to move them around. I like to just change things up just to keep 'em engaged. So it depends. It depends how busy life is or any of that, but maybe like once every two weeks or something like that, I will kind of mix 'em around. So routines kind of have a routine for them to enter the room seating chart type thing.

I do some blended learning. So some things I do on paper, some things I do digitally. I really try and look at like, some of the curriculum and some of the lessons and think what makes most sense. Sometimes it makes most sense to be on paper, like do something on paper. I mix up those things a little bit.

Tim Ranzetta: How about homework policy? 

Amanda Volz: Ooh, mine. I don't give homework, so I don't know. That's not everybody's policy and I announced that on the first day and I get cheers from some of the kids. But that's just my personal policy is I believe that when we're in school, like when we're in class, we're gonna work.

Like we're going, we're going to do stuff, and you always might need more time for something and you can definitely work on that at home. But when we are here, let's work and when you're at home, enjoy your family life, do your job, like do all of those things. So I try to keep those worlds separate. I need to do a better job of that, but I don't give homework unless they need more time.

Of course. That could be a controversial topic though, so. 

Tim Ranzetta: Saw a couple people clapping when you said that. 

Amanda Volz: Yeah, a couple. Yeah. So it, it's a personal preference. I mean, we could debate that in late work in some of those types of things, but I just, yeah, I don't do homework. 

Tim Ranzetta: On the subject of debate. Let's shift into how you sequence your course.

'cause I think I often see on FinLit Fanatics, and those of you not familiar with that, that's a phenomenal group. I think it's up over seven or 8,000 teachers now where you can put in a question and get a response, a thoughtful response from dozens of your peers. But this is one I think a lot of people wonder about.

What is the right as if there is a right answer here, because a lot of people do it different ways. But maybe talk about how you sequence your semester long course. And the topics you hit in the order, you hit them maybe just for the first three or four.

[00:18:06] Amanda's Way of Sequencing Her Semester Long Course.

Amanda Volz: First bit. Yeah, so remember I teach a year long course.

I also, my course counts as a fourth year math credit in Michigan. So just to kind of give you a little background. But this is something that comes up a lot. I teach a year long course, but I will tell you that I use the NGPF semester course as my guide. So I just use that and then build upon that.

A lot of people ask, I see that it's like I'm teaching a year long. Should I use the year long course of this? I mean, it's up to you, but I use this semester course and kind of build upon that and then I go out of order because I just do. And so I think that's what, remember I said I was so excited to find NGPF.

You can definitely switch things around and customize things and take things out and add things and do all of that. And so traditionally I will start with budgeting. That's the unit that I will start. I mean, the first week is like we do some other things, but. I'll start with budgeting, although in the last few years since the curriculum's been revamped a bit, I've start, started with the behavioral economics and in particular the lesson that's on money and values.

I think that's a great one to start to start off with. Students will play the Bean game, so it's very tactile, it's fun. They're walking away excited, you know, like all of that. And they're really just thinking about their relationship with money a bit before we dive into it. So I'll do that and then I start with budgeting.

I just, I do it because I feel like budgeting's, somewhat foundational, and a lot of the topics that we talk about come back to the budget, and so we can keep reflecting back to the budgeting topic throughout the course. And then I do a lot of the debt lesson in my first semester. So we'll talk about types of credit like credit cards versus the, the installment loans.

And that's a time where I can then also talk about student loans and buying a car. And I cover mortgages and buying a house because I, I have that capability or the time to get a little bit deeper into things. So I'll do a lot of the debt lesson in that first semester. And then we'll talk about investing, wealth building in that in the second semester.

So that's not all the, all of the units, but it gives you kind of an idea of how I do it. 

Tim Ranzetta: Yep. And so those of you who use the NGPF semester course, there were two major changes made. Do you want to talk about those, Amanda? 

[00:20:24] Changes Made to NGPF Curriculum.

Amanda Volz: The two major for the semester course? So the behavioral economics unit is now shortened, so if any of you have used it before, like I did, it's now down to just three lessons and Amanda's favorite is the first lesson, so that, I think the first one's a great one for the beginning. So there's fewer behavioral economics lessons at the beginning of the semester course.

And then the second I think is that there's now a career unit within the semester course, which is, which is awesome. So that's not typically a topic I integrate because we do it in a different course within my department. But yeah, now there's a, a full career unit within the semester course. 

Tim Ranzetta: Yeah, and just the, the thinking behind that was we were starting to see more and more states have standards that incorporated career related topics.

And so we had it, you know, it was a unit, I think when we had 12 units in the semester course it went out and now it's, now it's back in, in order to make room now just shortened the behavioral, the behavioral economics. It's interesting the order in which you talked about how you teach the course after behavioral economics.

We just did some polling work with adults to basically ask them what they think are the most important topics, you know, because they're adults and they've had experience, like what are the things they think is, are most important for young people to learn? Number one is budgeting for independent living.

Number two is understanding credit. You know, those that so clearly you've, whether students know that that's the most important thing for them to learn. That's what the adults are saying they wish they had learned. So it's interesting that that's the order. The order in which you go.

What are, you know, again, I think one of the, one of the things I love about this course is the opportunity for, for student participation. I wondered kind of the different methods and techniques you use to get students. I was gonna say moving around, but I know then that would be a leading question, so... 

Amanda Volz: Yeah, to get them to participate and get them engaged. So I just try and mix things up as much as I can in my classroom. So I will take those student activity packets or lessons as a teacher and I'll use that as like, my lesson, but then think, how can I creatively instruct with this lesson, if that makes sense.

So a lot of times I try and make things student centered, so I'll see if I can flip it where the students may be gonna do a little research. Here's an example from the taxes unit, there's an activity where they learn tax forms in their purpose. If any of you're familiar with that activity, it's like they can see, you know, W two, the I nine, the W four, and it's sort of like a, just matching.

And instead I have students create like infographics, like I just take it and think like, how could I maybe have them do a little of the research and then be a little kind of creative with my, in, with my instruction with those like student activity packets. So I think. By just mixing things up.

And I'm a huge fan of stations. I haven't mentioned this yet, but that's something I do in the first day if we wanna talk about like, what my first day in few days look like. But I use stations even with 12th graders. I know stations are popular with elementary students, but they're just as great, I think with 12th graders and how to, I, I'll take that student activity packet and I'll break it into some different stations.

And that's a way for them to, the environment of the classrooms very relaxed and students are participating in all these different activities. So I guess my main way is I just try and make thing, I make things a little different to keep them engaged and keep them, you know, intrigued and learning more.

Tim Ranzetta: How do you balance you know, again, maybe just rough percentages, individual work versus group projects? 

[00:24:11] Balancing Individual Work Versus Group Projects.

Amanda Volz: Oh, good question. I'm probably 50-50 maybe, but sometimes they'll do things individually, but I always have them the capability to like talk to each other, to collaborate, to work through it, even though they might be doing it themselves, if that makes sense.

It's very rarely silent in my classroom. I just don't have that kind of classroom. So and, and again, my room is set up in like little like pods where they can work together. So most often, I mean, almost always they're talk with your table group, talk through this, but they might do things individually.

It just kind of depends on what the assignment is. 

Tim Ranzetta: What percentage of the time are you talking teacher talk? 

[00:24:52] Talking "Teacher Talk".

Amanda Volz: Oh, that's a good... I thought like when I was thinking like, okay, I'm doing this speaker series and I was just doing some like reflection of myself over the years and I think back to like my first year of teaching and I talked way too much. Like, I did!

I just think back to those early lessons where it was like a PowerPoint and I was just pretty much reading the PowerPoint to them and talk a lot. I always get my classes going, like, I'll always get them, you know, like, we'll get started. And then over the years I've tried to talk less and let them do more where I can then casually move about the room.

'cause again, one of my key goals is I want students to be I want 'em to be excited about what they're learning and that I'm trying, I'm passionate about this and it definitely, and I hope shows through, but I also want them to feel comfortable and I try and keep my classroom like that as well. So a lot of times they can work together, less of me talking more of them, but I can move about and help them individually as they need it.

Tim Ranzetta: How do you get the group norms right? Because I know that that can be a challenge, right? Where there'll be some groups that just naturally there's a leader in the group and they're kind of leading the, and then they're getting involved. And there are others where maybe they don't. 

And, and I've particularly heard this, you know, post pandemic where students were separated and have had trouble getting back and reengaging and working with others. Has that been an issue? And then how have you been able to overcome that? 

[00:26:14] Amanda's Way of Getting the Group Norms Right.

Amanda Volz: Yeah, I mean, that's a, it's a hard one every year, right? Because we have different students every year. You have different dynamics in the classroom every year.

So, I mean, assigning rules sometimes helps. I'll try and mix between letting them choose their group. Sometimes it works, sometimes they're more comfortable and they're like talking to each other. Sometimes it does not work. We all know that. Like, oh, they can't do that. And assigning them. So again, it comes back to my, like, I'm kind of switching it up a bit where sometimes they can choose a group.

Sometimes I select their groups giving them roles, get prompting. That's where I can go around and like I can engage them in some questions to try and get them, you know, back on task or, you know, thinking deeper than just the first layer of whatever it is.

Tim Ranzetta: So you talk about variety, mixing things up, keeping students on their toes. You know, one of the ways teachers got very comfortable teaching during the pandemic was teaching virtually using Nearpod. And I think there's often the, the question of, okay, now that we're all in person and we have been for several years, does Nearpod or some similar online learning management system, does that make sense?

And I wondered kind of how you've thought about that. 

[00:27:27] Using Online Learning Management System Post-Pandemic.

Amanda Volz: Yeah, I do, I mentioned this already where I do a little of both. I still do worksheets on some things, particularly when I bring in some of those like math concepts. I need to work some of that out. I use Google Classroom as my learning management system.

At least that's what we've used for the last few years. And I do use Nearpod. I just don't use it all the time. Like, I'll use it sometimes we'll use it and students during like a live, hey, we'll go through it, live together, you know, and do a, like a lesson together. And sometimes I'll do it asynchronously.

So I still use a lot of those tech tools. We are a one-to-one district, so each student does have their own Chromebook, but there's still value in them. I, even though we're back into the in-person and all of that, but I just feel that anything that's overused, they get bored of, right. If they can walk in your room and they know exactly what they're gonna do and they know exactly what's gonna happen, yeah, I think just like.

You know, I survey my students at the end of the semester and at the end of the year. And if I would encourage you to do that as well. 'cause students are, they're honest. They'll give you feedback as a teacher. And they, a lot of the positive feedback I've gotten from them is that they like that we do different things all the time.

Like, that's been, generally students like that, it's mixed up. Keeps 'em engaged. 

Tim Ranzetta: Okay. So every time you're talking, you're, you're triggering other questions for me to ask. 

Amanda Volz: Okay. Okay. 

Tim Ranzetta: What best constructive feedback you've gotten from student? From a student? 

Amanda Volz: Ooh. Constructive. Oh, I've had, this is off the spot.

I'm a fast talker. I don't know if that's coming across in this speaker series. My brain works very quickly and so I do talk fast. So students have said that before. I'm trying to think of other things that have come through as some students wanna go, like even like deeper into some lessons, like they'll mention that, like to move things along and go a little deeper into some things.

Yeah, I'm kind of drawing a blank off the top. So yeah, most of it's positive. They all, I mean, you all teach it, right? They find so much value in the course that we're teaching, like that.

I get that. It's like they're going to use this. They wanna learn about it. They wanna know mine in particular, if you ask like what unit they're most interested in, mine are always enthralled with like building credit and their credit score and, you know, it's all things that are directly relatable.

So you get all of those glowing feedback and. Like I said, I'm passionate about it and my students see that too. So they, they, they comment on that as well. So yeah, I don't know that, that I said more positive things than negative. 

Tim Ranzetta: You haven't gotten many negative?

Amanda Volz: No, I mean always. You always do. 

Tim Ranzetta: Alright, let's go to tech tools 'cause I know you spent a lot of time thinking about that. Let's jump right to the most yeah, the most talked about tech tool these days ChatGPT. And I realize, you know, that kind of got introduced in November, so you probably didn't have lesson plans ready to go in January, but maybe how you're thinking about it just as an educator, maybe not even as something for your students, but more like, how can this make me better at my job?

[00:30:34] Amanda's View on Tech Tools.

Amanda Volz: Yeah, I mean, it's an amazing tool and I was just actually reading a book. I don't know where it is. Matt Miller has a book on AI in the classroom. But and it's just yeah, thinking of creative ways that it's not going away. Right. And so how we can bring that into the classroom.

And just following it, I don't have a lot of experience with bringing that into the classroom so much. But it's a great way to, for me, as like a professional to like look up things. And I've talked to students to see if they're using it. And some of them are, at least in my district, some of 'em at least aren't saying, you know, they're not admitting that they are.

And so, yeah, it's still a, it's gonna be interesting to see how this integrates into education. 

Tim Ranzetta: So let's talk about other tech tools that you find. You mentioned Nearpod and that you find are really engaging for your students. 

Amanda Volz: Well, I mean the traditional, like Kahoot is definitely one.

Quizizz I always like for reviews. I've used in the last couple years. Students like that one, the book it where there's different like review things that they can use. I have used Flipgrid in the class in the past. Flipgrid is a way for them to record like a video, 'cause sometimes I want them to just even use the vocabulary.

I wanna hear them using some of like the correct vocabulary and whatnot. So I'll use Flipgrid as like another tech tool. Nearpod is definitely one that I use. I'm trying to think of any new ones that I may have stumbled upon in the last couple years.

Tim Ranzetta: Tell us a little bit about Blooket. 

Amanda Volz: Blooket, it's like a quiz game. So it's similar to like Kahoot and Quizizz but students can play like, they can do different, you choose like a game that they can play but it's answering like review questions and then they play the game and kind of compete against each other.

So yeah, students love it. Even I was a little reluctant at first. Like, I'm like, Ooh, I dunno if my 12th graders are like this. No, they love it. They like, it's a great one. It's just a, it's good for review. I think it's a good like review kind of game tech tool. 

Tim Ranzetta: So this will be my last question folks, there may be some folks with us, Amanda today, who are, this is their first year teaching personal finance. So I wondered what you know now that you wish you'd knew then when you were just starting out a couple decades ago.

[00:32:56] Amanda's Advice for New Teachers.

Amanda Volz: Yeah, so I mean, I said like, I used to talk a lot more than I think I do now, that as a teacher I've kind of, you know, I don't have to just directly instruct everything. I think that's something that I learned. I think as a first year teacher, it's important to just like, be patient with yourself. No one is a rockstar in their first year.

It takes, I mean, even now you in 20, in my 20th year, you do things that fail, right? You try things and it just doesn't work out. That's just what happens. As a first year teacher, what other advice? I mean, building just the community and network I think has changed me as an educator. I mean, I was part of the fellow program at NGPF, and that just allowed me to be with a community of teachers that taught the same things I did, that we could collaborate together.

And honestly, that's been a game changer for me. So finding that, whether it's in your building or this community right here, you know, your people I think is is super helpful. And what else? First year teacher, I think I, try and treat students like adults more. I teach 12th graders, so I really try and, you know, not come in as I'm the teacher, you know, and like I said, I talked a lot directly instructed all of that.

And now we're like a team. We work together, we're learning together, you know, treat them like an adults until they don't act like adults. Yeah, I think those are some things that I would probably say. 

Tim Ranzetta: I'm thinking, you know, when you got started 20 years ago, the world of finance was very different and obviously that's reflected in what you're teaching, but I also wondered how you favorite websites, podcasts where you stay current, how you stay current with finance?

[00:34:37] How Does Amanda Stay Current with Finance?

Amanda Volz: I mean, I think back to like when I started teaching and I've taught a bunch of business classes, so like intro to business and marketing and like, you know, I've taught a lot of different things and I do remember, like, I would always bring in some personal finance to all of those different classes.

Like I was thinking of that I would teach Intro to Business and pull little in, I mean, we used to do like little simulations where, I don't know if any of you have taught as long as I have, but they would have like a packet of like bills and then they had to write checks and balance their checkbook.

And it was like this whole like packet it's like this big envelope of like, you know, a simulated bill paying, you know, system and all of that. And it's just, it's transitioned so much over that timeframe. So what do I do to stay current? I like podcasts, so I find like on my prep hour I'll play.

I mean, I like marketplace. That's just one, I think it fits in the timeframe that I have and I can listen to it. But I'll listen to a podcast 'cause I can be grading and prepping and doing things while I'm listening. I love, and I've mentioned this in other PDSs, but NGPF has a has a blog and on it there's a weekly reading list and it's just like bulleted quick.

Like, here's what's new in budgeting. Here's what's new in paying for college. Here's what's, and it's just a very quick read, but you could also dig deeper into it. So I feel like that's on my, like weekly Skimm through. I mean I have some like emails that come in, but I get overloaded with that sometimes.

So I would say podcasts and then I always look at that weekly reading list, 'cause I feel like that's a helpful, just quick catch up on all the, all things that are in the financial world.

I'm looking to see if there was anything else I wanted to share that might help all of you in getting the school year started.

Here's something I do. If you and I mentioned this in the first day of schools pd, if you attend it. So again, I told you I'm a fan of stations, so I do stations in that first week. And something that I do at one of the stations at the very beginning of the class, and pardon me if you've already heard this, 'cause I've shared it before, but I have students generate a list of 10 questions they have about money.

It's so simple. Like they just, at that station, they write down. 10 things that, like questions they have. And some of them are like, you know, simple, like, how do I open a checking account? How does a debit card work? And some of 'em are a little more complex. Oh yeah. Some of you have heard this idea before.

So just 10 questions you have about money. And then that I collect 'em, it gives me a little bit of an idea of what students wanna learn in the semester. But here's what's super impactful about it. Keep them, like, after the student writes down all of their questions, you can look through 'em, but then hold onto 'em and then give that paper back to the student on the last day of your class.

There's so much reflection that happens. You know, I didn't even know what a stock was at the beginning of this class, or I didn't know. And it's, it's a very simple activity. But then even like when you hand them back, the students are all like, oh, I remember when we did this. And they're kind of looking it over and having some self-reflection.

So yeah, when they read their questions, they're, and they can answer 'em and, and most of 'em can answer all of them. So very simple activity, but maybe something you can use at the beginning. 

Tim Ranzetta: I wonder if it's also had the effect, Amanda, of having you add something into the curriculum. Oh, oh, me or six or 10 kids, they're suddenly saying, what about Bitcoin?

And you're like, I didn't plan on teaching that, but... 

Amanda Volz: That's totally one. That was an example, like a lot that was not so much like this last year, but maybe it was like two years ago when everybody was talking about Bitcoin and it's like, I need to make sure I'm kind of including this and when we're talking about investing.

So yeah, it's helpful just to see, I mean, you can tell by their questions, right? Like what their kind of knowledge about a topic is, and it kind of helps you look at how deep you're gonna get into some of the content and things to add into it. What are they interested in? 

Tim Ranzetta: Alright, you're on a roll, Amanda, so I'm just gonna stop talking and let you... 

Amanda Volz: Oh, what else?

Let me see here. I broke down a few things. I'm trying to see if I have any other, any other tips or tricks that I can share with you? I mean, I told you I like to switch things up all the time, so I even just try and incorporate as much hands-on learning as I can. So, like I said, I look at that, that lesson guide or student activity packet and think just how can I add some instructional creativity to this?

So even like podcasts, for example, you, I like podcasts. I mentioned that. I'll bring podcasts into the classroom, like one example, financially inclined Nellie's podcast, right? All great episodes. And I'll have 'em do like a little doodle worksheet. I'll put crayons on the table and they can color while they're listening and answer some of the podcast questions.

And 12th graders love it. They just sit and kind of veg out and they kind of color. And so it just takes that assignment that they're answering questions and listening and have 'em color or. At the end of the school year, I'll do chalk advice. So I'll take all my kids out and we'll cover the sidewalk in front of the school with financial advice.

And I just bring in a big tub of my kids' chalk and yeah, the chalk walk. Sorry, I share all my tips. So these are repeats of things I may have shared previously, but and it's just, it's just hands-on things. It makes it fun, right? Making learning fun, take 'em out. And then everybody's looking at all the chalk advice in the front of the school.

Those are, I just try and make things as hands-on, I guess, as I can.

That's one of the awesome things about being a teacher, right? You start fresh every year, you got a brand new group and the first day, get 'em excited, get 'em comfortable, get 'em, all those things. And we just, we teach such an important class and so I hope you have a really awesome, awesome school year.

Tim Ranzetta: And before we go, Amanda, folks may be seeing more of you. Tell us a little bit about what you're up to these days. 

[00:40:32] What is Amanda Up To These Days.

Amanda Volz: So I'm gonna work a little more with NGPF now, so I'm gonna come on to NGPF full-time to do more PD and support teachers even more than I've been doing. I've been doing both for a long time.

I've been a teacher for 20 years, and I've tried to do as much as I can to support teachers at NGPF. And I am gonna try and support teachers even more now, more teacher tip videos from Amanda more hey, let's collaborate together. Let me, you know, whatever, whatever I can do to help, whether it's the first year teacher or the, you know what, I'm in my 25th year just trying to like, make it through.

I just, it'll be fun. New adventure. 

Tim Ranzetta: Yeah. I can't tell you how excited we are to have Amanda on the team full-time now. It's amazing how she was able to multitask in her full-time role as a teacher and also helping out with NGPF and just know she's really gonna help our organization take professional development to the next level, 'cause the, I think the empathy, I mean the talent is clearly there, but the empathy for understanding what each of you are experiencing every day is, is remarkable. So yeah, I can't say enough about how lucky we feel to have Amanda, join us. 

Amanda Volz: Thank you. Thanks everybody. 

Ren Makino: I hope you enjoyed this episode with Tim and Amanda. I have a few housekeeping items before we go. The show notes and full transcript can be found on You can also join these sessions live and ask the speaker questions by signing up for the NGPF speaker series sessions that occurred on Thursday at 4:00 PM. Pacific, you can sign up to attend on Please be sure to subscribe to the NGPF podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Better yet, leave us a review. We love hearing from you and it will help us reach a broader audience. On behalf of Tim and Amanda thank you so much for tuning in to this NGPF podcast

About the Author

Ren Makino

Ren started interning at NGPF in 2014, and worked part-time through high school and college. With his knowledge growing alongside NGPF, he joined the team to work full-time after graduating from college in 2020. He is also the producer of the NGPF podcast. During his free time, he likes to try out coffees from different roasters across the world.

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