My Summer Institute Experience: A retrospective from NGPF Fellow Maureen Neuner
When you’re selected as an NGPF Summer Institute participant, you not only join us for 3 days in the summer but also commit to being an NGPF Fellow for the following school year. Fellows have a menu of actions they can complete to earn points, with the goal of earning 100 points by the end of the school year and receiving a stipend for their extra efforts. I can say, from our side, the Fellows have been instrumental this school year in shaping what NGPF does, so we love having them!
One of their menu options is generating a guest blog post for our NGPF site, and Maureen decided to write about her Summer Institute (and follow up) experience. Interested in applying? Maureen will likely convince you with the following:
I am constantly on the lookout for fun activities, new lessons, and different ways to teach my financial literacy class. That’s how I originally came across NGPF curriculum. I was using the lessons and activities in my class, participating in the surveys, joining the webinars, and basically keeping informed about all the new resources NGPF was generating. When an email came through that said, “Apply to Join Us for the Inaugural NGPF Summer Institute,” it really got my attention. The email stated that some of the things I could expect from the institute would include:
- Working in a professional learning community with other personal finance educators to improve my own resources,
- Learning more about NGPF resources and be given time to create some of my own material,
- Filling in some gaps in my own individual personal finance knowledge and
- Collaborating with a select group of educators from around the country.
It took me about two seconds to respond and say I was interested! Who wouldn’t be? I applied and was lucky enough to be chosen. The things they said I could expect to get from the Institute didn’t even begin to cover all the things I learned from the Institute.
From the very first interaction with Tim and Jessica I could tell this was an extremely professional organization which cared about educating students in personal finance and wanted teachers to have the best possible resources to accomplish that goal.
During the Summer Institute, I met teachers from all over the country who came from very different teaching environments. For some of the fellows, such as Amy McCabe, and myself, teaching is a second career for us coming from Accounting and Finance. Some of the other fellows came to the profession with previous occupations in Investment Banking, Technology, Marketing, and Pharmacology. The schools and grade levels were all different as well, which added to the many different perspectives we had on teaching personal finance. I teach the subject to ninth graders and was happy to learn that is when Tim Ranzetta and Michael Faught begin to teach it as well. Many people seem to think ninth grade is too early, but both Mike and Tim share my thought, ”the earlier the better.” My school is located in a lower economic area as are the schools in which Cheryl Fleming and Tony Montgomery teach. While we all came from so many different backgrounds and areas of the country, the one constant I found was these were all dedicated professionals that worked hard to give their students the best personal finance education possible.
I came away from the NGPF Summer Institute with many different resources to use in my class. We put together “Resource Share for Tricky Subjects,” which has links to topics such as paying for college, comparing college scholarships, calculating taxes, planning for retirement, understanding payroll deductions, and investing. We also shared our “Favorite Resources,” which include different games and simulations we have used successfully with our students and would recommend to another teacher. Amanda Volz’s class was a top prize winner in the H & R Block budget challenge so I made sure I signed up to play this year. Sue Suttich shared a resource about planning for retirement and now a favorite line of mine is “Cha-Ching” from Sue! Sue explained that she wanted to make sure her students understood the importance of saving for retirement and wanted to really hook them. She started to say “Cha-ching” every time the word 401K or retirement savings came up. Her students caught on and say it all the time. Now the same thing happens in my class!
We also spent time exploring different NGPF lessons, activities, case studies, and projects that were of interest to us and beneficial for our classes. Tim and Jessica took us through the process of how to come up with our own ideas for both case studies and projects and gave us time to create lessons we could bring back and use right away. I expanded on a credit score lesson that was available in NGPF. The lesson had the students read a scenario for a client and use a website to calculate their FICO score. I added to the resource by having the clients make some changes in their credit choices. The students then recalculated the client’s score to see how it improved. It was a great lesson already but I was able to add to it in order for my students to gain a deeper understanding of Fico scores and the impact of their credit choices.
Not only did we spent time in the office working on lessons, we went on a field trip to Stanford University to take part in a workshop at the Institute of Design! During the workshop, we partnered together to design a solution for a problem we were given. It was a great team building experience and an important activity we could use with our students to have them design solutions to problems they will encounter in their everyday life. The workshop also helped us to see situations from another person’s perspective which is a very important part of being a successful teacher.
One of activities that had the most impact for me was the Professional Learning Community (PLC) time. We worked in small groups presenting lessons we used in class and receiving feedback from other teachers on what we could add, clarify, change, or expand upon. At first, it seemed a bit intimidating, but when you receive positive and constructive criticism from professionals that know exactly what you do every day, the benefit is just overwhelming. I have participated in two more PLCs with Jessica since leaving the summer institute because I felt it was such a benefit for me to collaborate so closely with other personal finance teachers and be able to share my ideas and receive feedback.
The time at the Institute flew by because each day was packed with activities, collaborating time, discussions on current topics and best practices, time to work independently, and so much more. Tim and Jessica took us out to lunch and dinner to make sure we had the chance to see Palo Alto and really get to know the other Fellows. They even took us to a San Francisco Giants baseball game on the Caltrain! I stayed a few days after the Institute was over and spent time visiting Google, Facebook, the Hewlett Packard Garage and other sights with Jill Thompson and Lynn Amey, teachers I met during the Institute before continuing on to San Francisco.
I honestly left the NGPF Summer institute with a fresh perspective, awesome resources, new lesson plans, and such enthusiasm; I couldn’t wait to start the new school year – and this was only July!
I have never been to another workshop where I was treated so professionally, so respectfully as a teacher, and been given so many resources and opportunities. I know I can reach out to any of the other Fellows as well as Jessica and Tim with any question or problem I may be having. I felt by working with these wonderful professionals, I became a better teacher for my students with a better perspective on how to help my students become the most financially successful person possible.
Every time I think back to the Summer Institute, I still get that renewed feeling of enthusiasm. I think it is because I learned so much and met so many wonderful people who really like what they do every day.
About the Author
When I started working at Next Gen Personal Finance, it's as though my undergraduate degree in finance, followed by ten years as an educator in an NYC public high school, suddenly all made sense.