Apr 01, 2024

Teacher Talk with Sheila Salehian

Sheila Salehian serves as the Financial Literacy Consultant for Nevada Public Schools, one of the recipients of NGPF’s Financial Equity and Empowerment grants. For eight years before this role, she led Financial Literacy outreach efforts for the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office. A lifelong learner and NGPF Distinguished Educator, Sheila is thrilled to use her many years of education and experience in Financial Services to introduce Nevada's teachers to quality Personal Finance curriculum and professional development.


About Sheila

What is one of your earliest money memories?

I was the youngest of four kids and my Mom was a single parent for the majority of my childhood. Going to a friend's birthday party, or hosting birthday parties at our small home, was ‘not in the budget.’ I realized years later what my Mom meant when she said ‘we had to live within our means.’ I can safely say my brothers and I heard that more times than we’d like to remember, and thought it was her polite way of telling us ‘no.’ “Credit was for emergencies and birthday parties were not emergencies.”  It absolutely motivated me to start working early to earn my own money, delivering newspapers, at age 12.


How were you first exposed to personal finance learning? 

I was first exposed to personal finance learning through life lessons. My mom helped me buy a used car at age 16 so I could drive to and from my part time job. I made the monthly payments, and paid for insurance and gas. I learned that you work for what you want, and if you don’t pay your car loan, it will be taken away from you.

It makes me smile now, when I think about how serious she was about the potential consequences if I missed a payment. It was a fantastic way to teach me about the pitfalls of only earning minimum wage and the necessity of having access to credit when you need it the most.   


How long have you been a personal finance specialist with the NGPF FEE Grant program? What was your role prior to this one? 

I've been in this position for 2 ¼ years. Prior to this role, I ran Financial Literacy outreach efforts for the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office for almost eight years, as well managed the State Governor Guinn's Millennium Scholarship Program. I also provided oversight of the 529 College Savings Plans, including Prepaid Tuition in Nevada. I love helping families and students navigate savings and scholarship programs to minimize or eliminate their need for student loan debt. 

What makes you passionate about personal finance education? 

I know firsthand the difference it makes to teach a child about the value of money and how you can either help or hurt yourself as a young adult when you are in the position of solely financing your post high school dreams. Although it was exponentially cheaper to attend college years ago, I could have never done it if I did not understand the benefits of FAFSA, work study, and federal student loans.

Kids today are inundated with private student loan solicitations, peer pressure from social media, and faced with exceptionally high tuition, books, and housing expenses. The work that NGPF does is critical to educating high school students to truly understand the ROI of their post high school decisions, and the importance of understanding financial aid offers, so they don’t make costly mistakes that will impact them for years to come. 

I started volunteering in classrooms over 20 years ago, teaching the Junior Achievement curriculum early in my financial services career, and loved it. Sharing tidbits of wisdom from my mom like “it’s not where you come from, but where you’re going in life that matters,” has always been part of my messaging.

I have spent a lot of time in Title I schools, and I truly enjoy educating students and teachers about money. The fact that regardless of a child’s social economic background, all kids have a fantastic opportunity to build great credit, can be life changing for them. Especially, alongside making sure students realize they hold the greatest gift of all…. TIME… due to the magic of compound interest. I’m so blessed to be able to share this knowledge that teachers and students want and need to hear. 


The Schools & Community

Please describe your district - the size, location, community 

The Clark County School District is the 5th largest school district in the country and has dealt with a decades-long teacher shortage, low per pupil funding formulas, larger than average student-to-teacher class sizes, and district leadership challenges/turnover. Eighteen percent of kids are growing up in poverty. Las Vegas is a very diverse community with many ESL and special needs’ students, as well as first generation students from immigrant families.

It is an honor and a privilege to share the incredibly engaging curriculum and professional learning NGPF offers to teachers for FREE. I have never met a student or teacher in this State that does not love learning about personal finance with the games, interactive lessons, and activities NGPF offers. Over the past few years the training I provided (largely based on NGPF PD and curriculum) was taken by hundreds of teachers, from many (if not all 75 Clark County High Schools) in addition to the numerous middle and elementary school teachers who then share this knowledge with students in their classrooms. It’s incredibly rewarding work. 

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

One of the recent stories that comes to mind is regarding a student whose parents forced him to move out at 18. They were unwilling to complete the parental FAFSA information for him, or to help him in any way pursue higher education. It was heartbreaking to hear.

Last fall, I met with his teacher and provided guidance and support on how to help his student by sharing financial aid resource information and scholarships he would likely qualify for upon graduation. A few months ago, the teacher reached out to me to tell me that his student was thriving at UNLV, living on his own, and had not taken on any student loan debt. The teacher had figured out a way to ensure the student qualified for a $10K merit scholarship, and worked with the financial aid office to ensure they knew his student’s situation, resulting in the maximum federal grant money being awarded.

The teacher called me to tell me “this is an example of the value you are adding everyday to teachers and students in NV.” I was extremely honored, humbled and grateful that he had contacted me for assistance and shared the success. Although he thanked me, he is the real hero, as are the countless teachers who go the extra mile for their students everyday..   


The NGPF Network

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

I LOVE LEARNING. I have taken and successfully passed every NGPF Certification Course offered, and both of the ASU graduate level courses. NGPF has helped me personally to deepen my own Personal Finance knowledge, and professionally, to learn new platforms like Nearpod and Canva. I used this ‘deep dive’ content knowledge to develop engaging and useful PD for teachers across the State, aligned to NV Dept of Education Academic Content Standards in Financial Literacy. The numerous 2-hour “On Demand” Nearpod classes, when completed successfully by teachers, earned teachers certificates from the NV Dept. of Education, which they were able to use for salary advancement credit. In all modules, I introduce teachers to the amazing FREE curriculum NGPF offers. In addition, many of the podcasts hosted by NGPF allowed me to meet other nonprofit leaders in the Personal Finance space (like Eugene Natali, Yanely Espinal, etc.) and bring them to NV for classroom visits. 


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

NGPF has provided me with an unbelievable opportunity to share personal finance knowledge in an exponential way with teachers and students across Nevada. Focusing full time on advocacy, outreach and education has been an amazing adventure. Being a FEE Grant Recipient from NGPF has made me a believer in the saying “If you pursue work you are truly passionate about, it never really feels like work to you.”

Of course, I won’t stop fighting for students until Nevada is counted alongside the 25 states who currently mandate a semester long Personal Finance course. It’s incredible to see how fast this “NGPF Mission 2030” train is moving and to be a small part of the huge effort it takes to mandate teaching “the most important class you never had in high school”.  


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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