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Finding the Story in the Story

Teacher: Kellie Haayer

School:  Kaiser Elementary (Houston, Texas)

Subject:   Science Lab

Grade Level:   Kindergarten through 3rd

State Financial Education Requirement: While, a high school course is required in Texas, Kellie gets them a bit earlier.

Why Personal Finance: Kellie gives her mom all the credit for why she teaches personal finance. She says she grew up thinking her family was rich. She said she later found out her mom was making $800 a month, but she knew how to save and budget. Kellie discovered this when her own kids were young, and realized she needed to re-learn some of these ideas. She said, “I can’t have my kids be like me. I want them to fully understand how money works and actually implement their learning.” It was that moment she appreciated the background her mother gave her and she wanted to give her kids.

Why Teaching:  Kellie’s admiration for her mom doesn’t stop at instilling financial basics. She also said she “learned everything (she) needed to know about teaching” from her mom. Kellie’s mom taught at a small, private Christian school for 26 years. When Kellie was in high school, she would help her mom in her classroom every Friday – she’d clean the room and set chairs out for Sunday school. Kellie also would substitute for her mom if she was not feeling well. Kellie says she “grew up not only going to school but living the life of a teacher.”

Resources:  For Kellie, the concept of financial education resources is a little different — since she’s a science teacher. However, she is a strong supporter of the National Educator Conference (NEC) – it’s at the conference in Chicago that made an impact. (More below in Her Story.)

Her Story

In 2012, Kellie attended the NEC in Chicago where she took a course on literature and financial literacy. She says that one session ignited her passion for using books for everything. One of her favorite books is “One Hen”:

One Hen tells the story of Kojo, a boy who lives in Ghana. He and his mother survive by gathering and selling firewood, but they never seem to have enough money or food. When Kojo is given a small loan, he uses his money to buy a hen so that he and his mother will have eggs to eat. From this small beginning, Kojo eventually buys more hens, attends school, and eventually has a poultry farm of his own. Just one small loan is enough to transform Kojo’s life and allow him to help his whole community.

For Kellie, the book allows her to discuss not only the science aspect — a chicken’s life cycle – but also loans, repayment, profit and charity. Kellie knows that the lessons may not completely sink in at the moment, but she’s exposing them to the words and the concepts – something that will put them on a path to financial literacy.

She says she hopes one day her kids will say, “Mrs. Haayer taught us that.”

However, that’s not the only book she uses. The 14th Goldfish blends science and family, and Kellie is working to pepper in financial lessons focused on the cost of feeding a fish/pet and taking care of it. Other books she loves using to teach financial concepts include:

  • Tops and Bottoms – debt, repayment and profit
  • On the Same Day in March – comparison shopping
  • One Plastic Bag – entrepreneurship
  • One Grain of Rice – theory of compounding interest
  • The Good Garden – entrepreneurship, profit, savings and invest
  • The Toothpaste Millionaire –  entrepreneurship, cost, profit, risk

“My world is the books, and finding the story within the story,” said Kellie.

Outside her classroom, Kellie has a new area she wants to make an impact.

In her school, students earn “cash” for good behavior, which they can then use to buy items – such as a candy bar. However, that candy costs students $40, which Kellie says doesn’t set up realistic expectations. She also would like to see the students have the opportunity to save their money and physically deposit it into a “bank.” She wants to see a system where students can better understand how money works.

She’s taking that on as her summer project – after a few good books.