Name: Lothar Konietzko
School: Everett High School, Lansing School District, Lansing, Michigan
Grade levels: 9-12
Subjects: Economics and Multi-Cultural Studies
Years as an educator: 21
Making Money Matter
“My grandmother was a former hardware and lumberyard owner in Northern Michigan. She and my parents taught me the importance of saving money. ‘A penny saved, is a penny earned,’ was not just a cliché. In our family, it was an expectation. My father always said to save for a rainy day and my mother was just really good at budgeting. I had great teachers growing up in my family,” says Lothar.
“Teaching students how to manage and handle money is one of my most important callings as a teacher. I am teaching Personal Finance within a standard High School Economics course. I start with teaching students about the importance of opening a savings account, but then also stress the need for having sub-accounts set aside for goals too. The most important savings account I stress is the emergency account; I want students to start with putting aside $500.00 and work up to Dave Ramsey’s $1000. I always talk about how many times that emergency savings account has helped me avoid debt. I also believe in the mission to help students avoid taking bad loan or credit card offers based on high interest rates that could trap them in a cycle of continuous debt. So consumer education is critical in my courses. Many of my students have family members that have been taken advantage of by predatory lenders.” says Lothar.
“Lastly, I want my students to have a good life and to achieve that, they need to understand the power of investing. I do my own stock market assignment where students invest $5000 in 5 Dow Stocks of their choice and award a prize to the students who gain the most in 18 weeks. I also stress and explain the importance of a Roth IRA in a no-load mutual fund or ETF. I try to steer students in that direction versus playing the stock market, as the lesson of risk and diversification is important.”
Financial Education Requirement
Currently, Michigan does not have a standalone Personal Finance course requirement, but Personal Finance is incorporated into our state standards for Economics. Lothar says he believes there is some movement for Personal Finance courses to count towards the Economics state requirements for graduation from a Michigan High School.
Called to Teach
“Teaching is a literal calling for me. I started out in the skilled trade of Photography. My dad was a successful photojournalist, so I grew up with a camera in my hand. I earned a degree in photography and worked in the field as a 1st assistant and studio manager at a large commercial studio in the Detroit area. It was not long before I got burned out and realized I needed to change course. It was during my time at that studio that I felt the call to leave photography and pursue a career in teaching. That calling for me, was to go in a direction that made a difference in young people’s lives. I enrolled in Michigan State’s James Madison College with the goal to become a Social Studies teacher,” says Lothar.
Lothar says his favorite go-to resources are:
- Junior Achievement’s Personal Finance Lessons with JA Volunteers from the local business community
- Dave Ramsey’s Foundations in Personal Finance
- Jump$tart Clearinghouse
- CNN 10, they do a lot of economic news/events
- Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) Education Outreach
- Google, Yahoo & CNBC Finance Websites
How This Rockstar Teaches During a Pandemic
“My high school and district have been online since the school year started in late August. For families that did not have the internet or technology tools at home, our district helped provide and support those needs. As a teacher, I did not panic too much as the Spring Covid-19 shutdown from late March to June in my district gave me a taste of what could be coming with going online for this school year. I also have an MA in Educational Technology from Michigan State University, which helped boost my confidence. My approach to this year is to realize opportunity in the challenge of online teaching/learning making sure to engage and reach out to students in as many ways as possible,” says Lothar.
“Simulations from places like NGPF and some of the great video clips that are out there on Youtube have been great in keeping my students engaged. It also helps to have a Superintendent and principals that have not only been supportive of students and their families, but very supportive of teachers and staff. This has made teaching in the current environment much easier to cope with because when you are supported you will go to the moon and back for your students and district. I am using Google Classroom to post my lessons, homework assignments, as well as any resources for my students. When I am live or synchronous with students we use Google Meet to “see each other.” I also supplement my teaching with Nearpod (as I was awarded a Nearpod License Grant from NGPF) which has been a game changer for student engagement,” says Lothar.
Way to go, Lothar! Jump$tart is cheering you on!