Jun 26, 2024

Teacher Talk with Dr. Wally T. Luckeydoo

Dr. Wally T. Luckeydoo was recently awarded Educator of the Year by Tennessee Jump$tart, became an NGPF Distinguished Educator this month, and is also finishing the 23-24 NGPF Academy year with more than 130 hours. Wow! A teacher at Smyrna High School in Tennessee—a state where Personal Finance is a guaranteed course for high school students—he has been teaching for six years, five of which have included Personal Finance. Learn more about Wally's personal finance journey and why he's so passionate about advancing financial education for future generations.


What is one of your earliest money memories?

I remember going to the bank with my mom every week when I was young and getting candy from the ladies. One day, one of the ladies gave me a tour of the bank and showed me their vault, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!


Describe your school and the size, location, and community where it is located. 

I work at Smyrna High School in Smyrna, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. It serves over 2,000 students and is constantly growing due to the growth of Nashville and its surrounding areas. The school is in the process of building a new addition due to the population increase.

The school consists of a diverse population with 37 different languages spoken by students. Students can pick different pathways for careers they may be interested in and can even earn an Associate’s degree by the time they graduate through a local university. There are a lot of caring teachers, a great administration team, and wonderful students. Smyrna is a tight-knit community with a lot to offer.


What other classes have you taught? And what age are your students?

I have taught Career and Technical Education Business classes, including Marketing, Hospitality, Business Communications, Business Economics, Business Management, and Work-Based Learning. I primarily teach Personal Finance to high school students, mostly juniors and seniors between 16-18 years old.


What makes you passionate about personal finance education?

I am originally from Gallipolis, Ohio, in rural Southeastern Ohio in the heart of Appalachia. Many students from that area do not have the same access and educational opportunities that most students do. I taught at a rural high school for four years and saw similarities to those I did in my hometown. Personal Finance or Career and Technical Education Business classes were not standard in my high school.

I made many financial mistakes throughout my teenage years and into my adult life, so it is essential to present information to students so they will avoid making some of the same mistakes I did. If I had taken a Personal Finance class as a teenager, I could have avoided most of those mistakes. I would have also had the opportunity to think about my career goals, educational options, and financial goals.

Giving students access to financial literacy throughout the United States and beyond is critical because it can help change their lives and the lives of future generations within their family tree. Personal Finance is the most important class a student will ever take throughout their educational career.


You recently became an NGPF Distinguished Educator and you have 130 NGPF Academy credits so far this year. What do you like about NGPF PD? And what have been some of your favorites?

Next Gen Personal Finance has been a blessing, and I love everything about it! I advocate for educational technology and financial literacy, and NGPF gives me the best of both worlds. The website has many great materials, is easy to access, and is engaging. I like that the information is all in one place. Before I knew about NGPF, everything was piecemeal. I would have to peruse the internet for many different materials that I could use during my lessons, and it took a lot of time to sort through everything.

The Professional Development courses are top-tier. I love that NGPF offers on-demand modules and on-demand Certification Courses this year. I have completed all of the on-demand activities that NGPF offers. They are self-paced, and you can complete them when you are able. It is a great option if you are a coach, club advisor, or a new parent because you do not always have time to sit in for a live session. It is also an option so that you do not miss out on time with your family. You can work on it on your terms.

I attended the live Cryptocurrency course this summer and gained a lot of knowledge. My favorite Professional Development courses were Budgeting in the Gig Economy, Career Exploration Tools, Building Credit, and Investing For Beginners. My favorite Certification Courses were Career, Cryptocurrency Basics, Investing, and Paying for College. It’s hard to pick a favorite because there is so much important information readily available for teachers to transfer to students.


What are your favorite topics to teach? And activities to use?

My favorite topics to teach include lessons about budgeting, careers, and investing. It is always exciting to show students the magic of compound interest. Students always have a lot of questions and can’t believe it works. It is fun playing with numbers. It is vital to have students think about their future.

I have used COMPARE activities to let students select a city to live in and what utilities they would want to select. I used ANALYZE: A high school resume and cover letter for the Career unit. I use CALCULATE: Retirement Savings Goals for the Investing unit. I love all the Arcade games that NGPF offers. I pair them with the topics we cover in class. Payback, Spent, and Stax are some fan favorites in my classroom.


Can you provide an example of how a lesson taught in class helped a student and/or someone in their family make a better money decision?

Every semester, I speak to students about the actual costs and the hidden costs of attending college along with financial aid. Students usually look at a piece of paper with information on financial aid assistance and assume they can afford to attend the institution they are considering attending. Students typically need to calculate their living expenses, including their room and board, meal plans, gas, the cost of taking a car to campus, and spending money.

A student had various options and considered going to an institution out of state until we looked at all the costs they would incur. After looking at everything, the student decided to go to an in-state institution using the Tennessee Hope and Tennessee Promise Scholarship and didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket, saving the student and the family thousands of dollars.

Do you hear from past students? If so, what do they say about having taken your class? 

Yes, I hear from students and try to keep in contact with them after they graduate high school. Teacher-student relationships are essential and can be maintained after graduation. Students always seem thankful that they were able to take Personal Finance. They thank me for teaching them things that they are already using in their adult lives, like paying for rent, getting a cell phone, buying a car, getting financial aid, and finding ways to save and make extra money. I have even had a couple thank me for teaching them how to invest.


How has being part of the NGPF network helped you personally? Professionally?

NGPF has helped me become a better teacher, and the lessons I present also make me think about my own financial decisions. It is important to take what you are teaching and put it into practice. I was recently awarded Educator of the Year by Tennessee Jump$tart. All the resources that Jump$tart and NGPF provide aided in receiving that special recognition.

To be able to teach a Dual Credit Personal Finance course or any Dual Credit course at my high school through a local university, an individual must have at least 18 Graduate Credit Hours in that subject. Even though I have multiple degrees, I am not qualified to teach a Dual Credit Personal Finance class. Dual Credit Personal Finance is currently offered online for students at my school, but some students may benefit more from having a live instructor. I completed certification courses this year to be eligible to apply for a scholarship to obtain the Personal Finance Certificate through Arizona State University.  NGPF awarded me a scholarship this Spring, and I will be taking my first class in July!

I am now qualified to take all three classes offered. Taking all three classes that NGPF offers through Arizona State University will give me 9 of the hours I need. I am also attending an NGPF FinCamp this summer to qualify for the Personal Finance Educators course through Bridgewater State University for $250. If I can complete all those classes, I will already have 12 of the 18 graduate credit hours I need to be able to teach it. Thanks, NGPF! My wife and I have two young children, and it would never have been within our family’s budget to afford the coursework needed on my own. These courses may also help me on my quest to become an online adjunct professor.

I look forward to seeing what doors and opportunities might open for me in my professional career. I genuinely enjoy being part of the NGPF community and am happy that the organization is advancing Financial Literacy to give students access.


What advice do you have for other personal finance teachers? 

Thank you for taking on one of the most essential teaching jobs. The weight a Personal Finance teacher carries is heavy because they are not only changing the students’ lives in front of them, but they are also changing the future generations of that student. They can change their family tree!

I would tell Personal Finance teachers to continue learning! I would also recommend networking with other financial educators to see what works for them and you can bounce ideas off of them. Some things will always stay the same in Personal Finance, but things are constantly changing, including Personal Finance topics. It is essential to continuously learn about new issues and stay updated with things happening in our field.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching or to teaching Personal Finance. What works for one teacher might not work for another. It is ok to think outside the box and try new and different things to get concepts across to students. Having various things to do in your wheelhouse is excellent for keeping things interesting for students. It is essential to present students with multiple options in Finance and let them choose what works best for them, which makes Personal Finance, “Personal.” 


Is there anything else about you, your school, or your personal finance journey that you would like us to know?

My personal finance journey hasn’t been the easiest, and I have made many financial mistakes and learned a lot as an adult. I grew up with a single mother trying to provide for my brother and me after our father passed away, which sometimes meant doing without certain things, but she always provided the things we needed. I learned the lesson about needs and wants at an early age. I made many financial mistakes in high school, college, and adulthood.

I always tell the students I serve that they are lucky because we did not have Personal Finance when I was in school, and some kids do not get to take the course in other states. I could have avoided almost every financial mistake with the correct behavior and knowledge. I tell them if I had taken the class, I would currently be in a much better position and might not even be in front of them.

My job as a Personal Finance teacher is to give students the information they need so they will not make the same mistakes I did and be successful with any endeavor they choose, personally and professionally, and live a life of abundance. It is never too late to fix the mistakes you have made or start making better financial decisions. Start now with what you have and where you can. Everyone’s journey has to start somewhere and you need to take the first step to get to where you want to be in life. The sooner you start, the better off you will be!


About the Author

Hannah Rael

As NGPF's Marketing Communications Manager, Hannah (she/her) helps spread the word about NGPF's mission to improve the financial lives of the next generation of Americans.

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