Feb 26, 2024

Teacher Talk with Jeannette Vestal

For nearly a decade, Jeannette Vestal has been focusing on financial life skills in her lessons. She brings a special passion and creativity to her work teaching high school students with mild to moderate disabilities. Read on to learn more about Jeannette.


About Jeannette

What is one of your earliest money memories? 

One of my earliest money memories was grocery shopping with my mom. I remember we had been working on mental math subtraction with money. She told me that when we went to the grocery store and checked out, if I could calculate how much change she was supposed to be given BEFORE the clerk said it, I could keep it!!!! :) This was always a great motivation for me to work on my mental math. 

How long have you been teaching personal finance? 

I have always incorporated “money” into my teaching, whether it be in isolation or as a cross-curricular activity. I started focusing my lessons into finance and financial literacy about nine years ago when I began teaching a course for students with mild to moderate disabilities. The course was designed for high school seniors to prepare them for heading into the real world. I knew from the moment I started teaching the course that personal finance had to be part of what I taught. 

What makes you passionate about personal finance education? 

Personal finance is REAL!!! That is what makes me so passionate about it. It is something that the students are using NOW, everyday. It isn’t abstract, it is real life. I want my students to be able to make wise, educated choices for their futures.


In the Classroom 

What school do you teach at? Please also describe the size, location, community

I teach at Sunnyside High School in Fresno, CA. We are in Southeast Fresno and have a very diverse population. We have a total of about 3,000 students and are 100% free lunch. Our community is extremely heterogeneous. There are more than 10 different languages spoken on our campus and by our students’ families. 

What classes do you teach? And what age are your students? 

I teach Personal Management. All of the students are identified as having mild to moderate disabilities, are in the 12th grade, and on track for graduation. This year, I also have the opportunity to work with students from our moderate/severe program to incorporate more financial life skills into their programs. 

What are your favorite topics to teach and activities to use in the classroom?

It is very hard to narrow it down to just one topic that is my favorite! Recently, I have fallen in love with the assignment in the resume writing/interview section that requires students to critique each other's answers to an interview question. My students were so excited to show their interview skills and then provide constructive feedback to their peers.

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? 

A lot of the units we do involve a part in which I ask the students to interview their parents or a family member who is currently dealing with finances. After the interviews, we continue with the unit. At the end of the unit, 9/10 times the students say, “Wait a minute, my parents aren’t doing that!” This tells me that they are really understanding what is being taught and often they say that they are going to go home and share the info with their parents. 

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

I have had two former students just this year say that they didn’t realize it while in high school, but the information that was learned in my class was so important!!! I have also had multiple parents share how important they thought this class was for their child.


The NGPF Community 

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

Professionally, I have been exposed to such a wealth of resources. The variety of assignments and ways to view a topic have been so exciting to see, use, and include in my lessons. Personally, I have thought a little more about some of the financial choices that I make, and try to share with my students when I make changes in my personal life as well due to the learning that has taken place within NGPF. 

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

My school has not always had an option to provide financial literacy to students. When I first started using this curriculum for students with disabilities, I was able to provide some solutions to my concerns that I brought to administration in having the class be available. This curriculum has allowed me to provide exposure to my students that I may not have been able to do before.


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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