Digging Deeper: The Value of “Professional” Professional Development

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Jun 18, 2018
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Professional Development

I know, just the words “professional development” usually makes you want to head for the hills! During my tenure as a high school mathematics teacher, my recollection of professional development opportunities and training sessions is a giant blur. Most addressed administrative requirements or curriculum changes—little of it inspiring.

As a personal finance instructor at the college level, I participated in the Higher Education Financial Wellness Summits and found them to be energizing and informative. I have attended national conferences aimed at K-12 teachers, often representing a sponsoring organization, but perhaps because I did not have my own classroom, I rarely walked away feeling inspired from the sessions. (The NGPF Summit was an exception, of course.)

As an Ohio Jump$tart board member, I attended the three-day “FinCamp Plus” teacher training in Cincinnati last week. The training session was sponsored in full by Next Gen, and Jessica came in to run a NGPF FinCamp on the third day. The first two days of programming were pulled together by the Ohio Jump$tart Board President Brian Page (a name that should be familiar to NGPF regulars), with the help of three other board members who are educators themselves, and with organizational support from the Ohio Bankers League.

While I was pulled away from the activity to handle some things behind the scenes and missed some of the sessions, when I was in the room, I fully participated with the teachers. Everyone in that room, presenters and participants alike, was so dedicated to their mission to change and improve the lives of their students. The constant sharing of tips and experiences kept the room buzzing with positive energy. We were never sitting for very long. We were up and out of our seats often in order to experience the activities and tools first hand. We learned how to implement (and modify) all the tools presented to us, rather than just observing a demonstration. This gave everyone the confidence to actually incorporate all of these wonderful lessons and tools in their classrooms, and a network of fellow teachers to support them if necessary.

The sessions where outside speakers/groups were brought in were really valuable as well. Day One included a panel discussion with Dr. Billy Hensley (the new CEO of NEFE) and Dr. Julie Heath (Director of the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati and the President of the Ohio Council on Economic Education) on research in the field, as well as a Q&A with Experian’s Rod Griffin on credit. On Day Two, The United Way came in and talked about how teachers can host free tax filing days at their schools (check with your local United Way). We also ventured out in the evenings for additional worthwhile activities!

But perhaps the most inspiring sessions were the two sessions where the students participated. Over lunch, several area students who had completed a personal finance class sat on a panel and answered questions. Their responses were honest, heart-felt, and priceless! They let us know what worked for them, and what didn’t. We learned how their lives were changed and what they thought were the most valuable lessons learned. Following that, we learned about Magnified Giving, an organization that promotes student philanthropy. We watched four pairs of students “pitch” their organizations (the winner received additional funds), and the heart-wrenching stories put forth brought many of us to tears.

By the end of the three days, I decided that I needed to get back into a classroom ASAP. I wasn’t alone in my appreciation. When asked if they would recommend this training to a colleague, the response was 9.97/10!

What is the moral of this story? If you have the opportunity to attend a NGPF FinCamp or FinCamp Plus or similar training offered by your state’s Jump$tart organization, give it a shot…..it could be a game-changer for you as it was for me.

About the Author

Beth Tallman

Beth Tallman entered the working world armed with an M.B.A. in finance and thoroughly enjoyed her first career working in manufacturing and telecommunications, including a stint overseas. She took advantage of an involuntary separation to try teaching high school math, something she had always dreamed of doing. When fate stepped in once again, Beth jumped on the opportunity to combine her passion for numbers, money, and education to develop curriculum and teach personal finance at Oberlin College. Beth now spends her time writing on personal finance and financial education, conducting student workshops, and developing finance curricula and educational content. She is also the Treasurer of Ohio Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.