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Every month, we honor one ROCK STAR teacher who is making a difference in financial education. These teachers are helping the students of today become successful adults by teaching them about money in school.

Who’s our special teacher this month?

Maritza Salazar from Palm Springs Elementary, Miami, Florida

A conversation with Ms. Salazar…

Why were you called to teach personal finance?
I have to give complete credit to the first Jump$tart conference that I attended about 6 years ago for instilling my passion and desire to teach financial literacy.  

I always noticed that children really became very interested in math and social studies any time that money was involved and this got me to think I should be able to do more with them, then just the one chapter about money.  

I researched the topic and found out about the Jump$tart Conference, which I was lucky enough to be able to attend. From there my ideas started rolling and rolling and since they have not stopped.  

When I attended the first conference, which was in DC that year, I noticed that there were so many other educators “on the same boat” as me. They also wanted to do so much more than the required curriculum, in order to help students be better prepared for their future. The connections I made motivated me and kept me going. I’ve loved sharing ideas and learning so much from teachers from all over the country.  I’ve also brought back what I learned and shared it with colleagues who also have become involved with Jump$tart.   

How do you bring personal finance to life in your classroom?
In my classroom I use teachable moments all of the time, since we don’t have a set time for financial literacy. I tie it in with science, social studies and math which are the three subjects that I teach.

Traveling is what I like to do most on my free time during summers off. A project that my students really love and have become  so envolved in is a travel project. Students are given a budget and they have to plan an entire trip anywhere in the world. They must take every single aspect of the trip into account. For example, passport fees, transport, transfers, meals, accommodations, spending money, emergency money, souvenirs, etc.

It is so much fun watching their trips being planned and many times changed and adjusted to meet their interest and budget. They then make a presentation as if they were a travel agent selling me the trip.

There was one year when I choose one of the trips that was presented to me and I was able to go there during the summer, which was to Mexico.

The students are very good at finding good deals and trying to get the most for their budget. It’s amazing the places I’ve traveled through their presentations.

What was your ah-ha moment?
I realized my students were really enjoying working with financial literacy during their travel project when one of the parents approached me to thank me. The parent mentioned that their child was helping them budget and put together a summer road trip.

Many of my students at my school are from immigrant parents, and English is their second language. This student was able to help their parents plan a trip within their budget and and learn about money along the way.

This was the moment that I realized that I was impacting more than just the student sitting in my classroom. It was impacting families.

What else do you want us to know?
I think there is a way to add financial literacy education to every classroom. You have to find what your students are interested in and their needs, and go from there.

Maritza’s favorite resources
I love books! Books about math, science, countries, travel, different cultures, diverse backgrounds and more. One of my favorites is the Ayo’s Money Jar. I like when characters in the books are children that my students can identify with. This really brings it home, they can relate and my students love it. I also use hands on banking from Wells Fargo and my students love to play fintropolis on Minecraft.

More about Maritza Salazar
2023 is my 23 year teaching. I teach gifted math, science and social studies for grades 4th and 5th.

The first year that I attended NEC was about 6 years ago in DC. I have been so fortunate to attend NEC Atlanta, Cleveland, Chandler and DC. I can’t wait for Kentucky next year.