Jul 04, 2023

Teacher Talk with Barbara Angelicola-Manzolli

Barbara Angelicola-Manzolli, granddaughter of Italian immigrants, learned many finance lessons growing up surrounded by a family of small business owners.  She knew from the early days of her teaching career (her second career) that students needed to learn about personal finance, and fought to make it a requirement at her school and then at the state level.  She was not going to retire until this goal was achieved, and she and her students played a pivotal role in getting the law across the finish line in Connecticut, state #21.  Read on to learn more about Barbara.


About Barbara

Barbara, the youngest of four children, grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut.  Macaroni was a staple in their diet, not just because it was a part of their culture, but it is how her mom stretched a dollar. She learned the importance of saving from an early age, and her parents helped her learn the value of planning and delayed gratification by making her save for things she wanted.  They helped her along by matching her savings for certain things, like when she wanted to buy a car.   Her elder brothers often had small jobs for her and she earned spending money from a young age.  Her (grandfather) owned a bread bakery and many of her finance lessons came from him.  She also learned the benefits of hard work and honesty from her grandfather (who started a co-op of bakeries so they could buy railroad cars of flour instead of their individual orders) and her father, who owned a paving company.

I got my first job at 15 and have worked ever since - my family's values on money really prepared me to be on my own.”


Barbara is passionate about financial education because it is such an important foundation to give high school students, regardless of what they do after they graduate.  

“When I came back to CT, I was subbing at one of our technical schools while I worked on my teaching certification and even back in the late 90's I was trying to explain why students needed this.” 

They may not be experts after taking her class, but they know where to go for answers and they know how to save and spend widely. Her students come back and tell her just that.


When asked if she shares personal anecdotes with her students, she does.  She turned her own car buying experience into a teachable moment by having the students look at options for her situation.  Her son has seven children and there are many lessons from his struggles managing the cost of raising his kids.  She has another son who is in the military, and he is a good source of stories about how much help new recruits need with anything from opening a bank account to when it makes sense to buy a house (or not.)  She shares her personal experience with her students about everything from updating/writing wills to the cost of funerals and burial–as she sadly lost one of her sons, and relayed the decisions they had to make. She has plenty of stories coming from a family with a total of 29 cousins!!!


About Lewis S. Mills High School, Burlington, CT and the Students

Barbara teaches at Lewis S. Mills High Schoola regional school for two towns, Burlington and Harwinton.  The student population is about 620 students, and this year's graduating class was 162.  She teaches a general level Personal Finance class.  Barbara also teaches two classes through a college career pathway program affiliated with Tunxis Community College, the local community college.  Barabara had to be vetted to make sure she was as qualified as their adjunct faculty in order to be certified to teach.  Personal Finance is a one semester class, and Introduction to Business is a full-year class.  Students earn three college credits upon completion.



  • Students’ Favorite Classroom Activities


Students tend to moan when Barbara first assigns what turns out to be an activity they value the most.  Here is Barbara’s description:

They are tasked with tracking every penny they spend or is spent on them (excluding household bills) for one month.  They enter information daily into an Excel sheet - at the end of the month they write an essay based on questions I provide to learn about their spending.  They always groan at the beginning, but by the end understand the importance of it - many choose to keep it up after the assignment ends or have suggested it to family members.  

My students also enjoy the NextGen Roommate activity - they take it very seriously talking down to refrigerator space, cleanliness and quiet time.  I enjoy walking around and listening to the conversations.

Another would be toward the end of the semesters, when we go vehicle shopping with different budget requirements or rent apartments in various locations throughout the country.  




  • When/how do you know you have gotten an important concept through to your students? Would you like to give an example?


When they come back to class and tell me how they used what was learned, or when they let me know that they discussed something at home.  But the real indicator is when I hear back from them well after they have graduated.  This morning I heard from a student working on her thesis on tax literacy as a component of financial literacy and she reached out to say how she was thinking about our class.  Or when they get their first credit card or buy a vehicle.  They reach out to say thanks for the foundation.  It just reinforces for me how very important this is.  


NGPF Professional Development

Barbara has completed PDs on Behavioral spending, taxes, paying for college, insurance, investing, credit, career and banking and budgeting. She also enjoys the mini PDs that she can do on her own.  Her favorite takeaways from these are the case studies and activities introduced during the PD.  She reviews the materials when setting her lesson plans and incorporates what she can.  One example she gave was how she used a behavioral spending lesson in her Intro to Business class when discussing consumers, but from the angle of how companies could take advantage of that knowledge when selling their products.  Barbara also enjoys the mini PDs that can be done on your own.


Barbara had trouble listing one favorite NGPF activity, but really likes how the case studies are so well laid out and pull a concept together for her students.  She also mentioned FinCap Fridays, the video library and games for reinforcement.  She sometimes looks to the Middle School materials to help a special ed student grasp a concept.


Advocacy Work (in Barb’s words)

  • How did you first get started in Advocacy? What was your first activity?

I received my first grant back in 2007 from the state of Connecticut to start a personal finance course at our school.  It's funny but from the time I taught this for the first time I knew it was something that all students needed.  Next, we added an honors level. I have been discussing with principals, BOE members and anyone that would listen that we needed to make this a graduation requirement.  Our most recent principal decided to meet with all seniors in small groups.  He came into my classroom one day and asked if I was setting him up - I laughed and said not to my knowledge. He shared that every senior that had taken personal finance wanted to know why this was not a graduation requirement. It was the catalyst that was needed.  We went to the BOE and starting with the class of 2023, it is now a graduation requirement.  Students have three choices: the college level, the regular level, or a full year consumer math class that is both a math credit and fits the requirement.


  • Where did you go for guidance?

I used any materials I could find that show why this was important, any PD I went to - the Jump$tart National Conference was a great place to find information and speak with teachers from other states.  Maybe a little shaming regarding all the schools in our state and states in our country that were ahead of us. Lots of emails to Tim at NextGen and community members that work in the financial field.  Former and current students and parents.  My son, who I required to take my class. 


  • Please fill us in on what you have been fighting for and share your successes

So most recently I have been working with Christian from NextGen and the fight to get our state to make it a graduation requirement.  In March two current students, one former student, a parent who has been speaking to my classes for 19 years and myself went to the state Capital to testify to the education committee.  It was rather nerve wracking as we listened to them say they did not want any more requirements on the districts.  We got up to testify and to say I was a proud teacher does not cover it. We were polite but forceful and really laid out why this had to happen.  I told them how long I had been waiting for this and gave as passionate a statement as I could.  We each spoke for three minutes, and they asked questions for the next 20. It was amazing,  They voted it out of the education committee 28 to 2. It went on to the house, the senate and then back to the house and was voted through 138 to 12. Our school, students and I got a shout out on the house floor the night of the voting. It was awesome.   (Barb explained to me that she watched the debate on the house floor, frustrated by the naysayers, but then she watched the board light up with green as it passed overwhelmingly!) The governor recently signed it into law.  Both my current students and the one that was in her senior year at Trinity knew the importance of this and their passion and mine I believe made a difference. Connecticut became the 21st state to mandate it!  We are hoping to be invited to the ceremonial signing.  Teaching is my second career. I was an HR professional for 15 years prior to coming into education, I always tell my students they will end up exactly where they belong, and this is where I belong.  I also said I would not retire until Connecticut made it a law, although I am not retiring yet, when I do, I will know I did all I could!



What’s next for Barb? Retirement from teaching high school is on the horizon.  She isn’t sure what she will do after that, but she will undoubtedly still play a role in personal finance education.  


One of Barb’s probing questions as an advocate was “Do you want your children to learn about personal finance the way you did?”   Then watch the heads shake no.  


“You will never meet a parent that says ‘no, don’t teach my kids about personal finance.’”

About the Author

Beth Tallman

Beth Tallman entered the working world armed with an MBA 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, conducts student workshops, and develops finance curricula and educational content. She is also the Treasurer of Ohio Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

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