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Name:  Gianna Alexander

School: Heritage High School, Brentwood, CA

Grade levels:  9-12

Subjects: Vocational Transition, Career Exploration, Personal Management

Years as an educator: 17


Making Money Matter

Jump$tart Staff: “How do you make money matter to your students?”

Gianna: “It is essential for students to learn about money because it will help them live a successful life, secure in the knowledge that they are financially stable and have a genuine respect for the value of the money they earn.  In my lessons, I choose reading passages from the newspaper and/or websites on the internet about money-related topics, either locally or abroad. Also, I discuss organizing a budget and planning how to realistically attain a savings goal. Currently, we are using resources that I was able to learn about during the Jump$tart NEC conference that I attended in 2019.  One example would be the NEFE High School Financial Planning Program. I love that there is a book and a PowerPoint for different topics addressing money factors (insurance, borrowing money, paycheck, investing, financial services and etc).  This resource has been helpful during distance learning platform. It has been highly motivating for my students because they are learning about real money tips, strategies, and options.”


Jump$tart Staff: “What is the financial education requirement in your state?”

Gianna: “California high school students are required to take one semester of economics to graduate. The content standards for grade twelve economics include topics that support financial literacy knowledge, such as cost-benefit analyses, the functions of financial markets, taxes, and labor policies.”


Jump$tart Staff: “Can you tell us about your calling to teach?”

Gianna: “As a seventeen-year teacher and a career changer, I sometimes still cannot believe I am a special education teacher at the same school district that my two daughters and son received their high school education from.  This pandemic has forced me to think about whether I should continue to be a special education teacher.  Am I effective? Can I be effective in my new environment of distance learning? Am I good enough with technology? Am I helping my students? Most of all: Am I an agent of change? I had to ask myself these hard questions because I wanted to be happy teaching. I really needed to make sure that my heart is in it.  In the past years, I felt that it was a calling for me to become a special education teacher, yet these past months have been a challenge.  I had to rethink, recreate, revise, renew my passion to teach. I had to motivate myself to be the teacher who learns about their students and pushes them to do better and achieve goals.  Most importantly, I had to push myself!  The beginning of the school year had its challenges, yet each month became better and better.  The students and my struggles declined and we both learned to embrace the uncertainty of the pandemic.  A positive moment was a student stating in a zoom class meeting that she missed seeing her peers but most importantly, she missed saying hello to me in the morning as I walked by her with a cup of coffee in my left hand to towards the classroom.   Another positive moment was a student yelling out my name from a distance in a Target Store and stating that he missed me, and he is budgeting his money now.  The list can go on and on and of course, my heart has melted countless times because I realized that I am someone important in their lives and they do value my teaching skills.  As I continue into distance learning, I am reinventing myself and I am embracing the different changes and/or obstacles that I must face.  Overall, it has made me stronger as a special education teacher to which I am truly grateful.  It has provided more insight and increased my validation of becoming a special education teacher too.  I know that some of my lack of confidence comes from a place of uncertainty and fear, yet I am starting to realize that I have a purpose.  Most importantly, I did select the correct career path and my students are at the heart of everything that I do.”


Jump$tart Staff: “What are your go-to resources for teaching financial literacy to your students?”

Gianna:  “The following resources are used to develop lessons in my classes”:

  • Junior Achievement
  • Department of Rehabilitation
  • National Endowment for Financial Education
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling
  • Council for Economic Education
  • Financial Literacy and Education Commission
  • Federal Reserve Bank


Jump$tart Staff: “How do you teach during the pandemic?”

Gianna: “In the beginning of the pandemic, I spent my free time working with students so that they could simply access the digital classrooms. I spent copious amounts of time planning lessons to keep students engaged and spending boundless energy to motivate students who were highly distracted.  I felt like I normally felt in June, but it was only September! Yes, I was exhausted, and I had serious concerns about the recoupment of skills for missed in-person academic time and the safety of my students.  I worked hard to fill the learning gaps while addressing the social-emotional needs and safety concerns for students as schools are sometimes the ultimate checks and balances, these factors took an emotional toll on me, yet the reward outweigh my lack of sleep for several months.   By the month of November, the students and I were able to handle the many changes of distance learning and I was able to sleep longer hours.  Most importantly, the students were starting to adapt and learn through the engaging activities in whole group, small group break out rooms or one-to-one break out rooms.  Overall, the students and I were increasing our learning through technology.  Honestly, I was scared that I had to teach students in a different platform.   However, I was able to embrace technology and recreate myself as a teacher.  Teaching through a pandemic was a challenge yet it was a welcoming epiphany too.”


Jump$tart Staff: How does the NEC effect your teaching?

Gianna: “I am very grateful to the exposure of NEC.  I was lucky to gain a great deal of knowledge from my attendance at the conference in 2019, three months prior to the pandemic. NEC helped me to create a curriculum that combines in-person instruction with online learning. Now that students are studying from home, the financial literacy curriculum is doubly critical for both students and their parents.  I am reliant on the curriculum for student’s learning. The curriculum helped me to teach the complexities of money in a simplified version.  I was able to access students learning through varies key principals.  Such as, savings, banking, payment types, credit scores, financing higher education, renting vs. owning, insurance and taxes, consumer protection, and investments.  Honestly, I do not know what I would have done without NEC.  My teaching lens are widening with the enriched curriculum.”