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Fake Money Helps Drive Lessons Home
Teacher: Jill Lucero
School: East High School (Cheyenne, Wyo.)
Subjects: Jill teaches a personal finance class titled Money 101 as well as Business Management, Discovering Pathways, Working Smart and the Working Smart Work Experience class.
Grade Levels: 9th to 12th
Jill shared that her Money 101 class recently opened to freshmen and sophomores, but she’s noticed that some will retake the class in their senior year – not because of a bad grade, but because they see the value and want to ensure that they are prepared before going off to college or join the workforce.
Years Teaching: 26 years
Why Teaching: Jill never thought about being a teacher. Instead, she dreamed of owning her own bed and breakfast, but after working for a major hotel for two years in Denver, she decided she needed to take a different path. Jill said she was “a little lost” and returned home where her mom, a third-grade teacher, inspired her to go back and teach. For Jill, though, she found her niche in teaching personal finance and business-related classes to high school students.
Why Personal Finance: For more than 20 years, Jill has been teaching personal finance. When she started, Jill took over the consumer economics class from another teacher but was “miserable” teaching the class as prescribed. So, she made it her own and it has since become her favorite class to teach – one where she tells her kids they will use everything they learn.
State Financial Education Requirement: Wyoming does not have a financial education requirement.
Resources: Jill began teaching with a textbook, but found it hit or miss. Since then, she’s gone through the Jump$tart Clearinghouse to find supplemental activities. Her favorites are Next Gen Personal Finance, H&R Block Budget Challenge and the SIFMA Foundation Stock Market Game.
She also shared that the National Educator Conference and the other teachers who attended have helped her shape her class. By far, Jill said, one of the best things is the networking and being able to talk to teachers from across the country.
Jill’s students hate paying $4 for a hall pass to use the restroom. They’ll wait.
It’s something Jill giggles about as she shares the money isn’t even real. “They hoard their money,” she said.
The “money” and the accompanying classes are Jill’s way of driving home her personal finance lessons.
Each day, her students come into class and get an envelope with their bank register and are paid for their attendance. However, if a student is late, they pay a fee. If they need to borrow a pencil, they pay a fee. And everything is tracked in their register.
“It teaches the students how to record transactions and keep an eye on their accounts,” Jill said.
The system is something she kicked off about five years ago and the students love it. In fact, the kids have added their own twists – paying fees for cursing or using cell phones. And, each year, the idea gets a few tweaks or additions, which makes it a unique experience for each class.
However, the basics are the same. In addition to earning pay for their attendance, every four weeks, based on the students’ grades, they earn a raise – or a pay cut. And every quarter Jill has her students pay taxes – 15 percent of what they have in their envelope.
That aspect has not been a student favorite. In frustration on having to give up some of their money, one student asked Jill if they could just not pay taxes. “It doesn’t work that way,” she told them.
However, sometimes the fees come in handy for the students. Jill is a stickler for work being turned in on time and won’t accept late work. However, at the end of the semester, students can buy back missed assignments to replace the incomplete with a grade. Students can also buy the opportunity to redo assignments. Students with an A are not required to take the final – so, they will do what they can to move up the grade scale.
Jill said, at the end of the semester it’s fun to see those students who have hoarded money sharing it with other students. She decided this was an act of charity; another lesson for her students. In addition, not just at the end of the semester, but during, some students provide loans – charging interest – opening the door to discussions of credit, credit reports and other debt products.
For Jill, one of her key lessons is to never pay a fee – and apparently, that message has been received. Students suggested that she put it as her quote in the school’s yearbook.
Jill also augments her lessons with the H&R Block Budget Challenge and the SIFMA Foundation Stock Market Game.
The Budget Challenge, which is a personal finance simulation that teaches teens money management skills. During the 10-week competition, students receive virtual paychecks and bills in real-time and are challenged to build a budget and make financial decisions that help them learn how to pay bills on time, manage a credit card balance, and save money for retirement in a 401(k).
For Jill’s students, the competition starts before they address a number of lessons – something she now likes. For example, the challenge will require students to make decisions about insurance, but because of the game’s timing, it’s often a subject she hasn’t touched on yet. However, what she likes is that in response the students will ask thoughtful questions, and when they do address the topic, it reinforces the earlier decision they made during the challenge.
The SIFMA game is similar. The Stock Market Game is an online simulation of the global capital markets that engages students in 4th through 12th grades in the world of economics, investing and personal finance. It also starts often before Jill has addressed investing in her lesson plan. But she helps the students by bringing in guest speakers and reaches out to community resources.
But Jill doesn’t stop there.
She also opens up her own accounts and shows her students her own budget and finances. And shares stories of her own struggles with debt and some of her personal habits – like never spending $5 bills to save money. Instead she and her husband hoard – perhaps her students are learning more than she thought – the bills to take a trip or go on an adventure.
Jill is dedicated to her students being financially successful and takes pride when her students refuse to pay a fee to save money – even when the money is fake.