Helping Students Find What Makes Them Happy
Teacher: Kim Goff
School: Marion County Knight Academy
Subjects: Kim teachers Financial Literacy and Principles of Marketing, and serves as the advisor to Junior Beta – “a national organization for students in grades 4-9… to promote the ideals of academic achievement, character, service, and leadership.”
Grade Levels: Financial Literacy is for 8th graders and Principles of Marketing for 9th.
Years Teaching: 8 years
Why Teaching: Kim got her business degree and worked in that arena for five or six years until she volunteered in one of her child’s classes. It reminded her that she had always wanted to work with kids. Passion won out and she went back to school to become a teacher. She said she loves that she gets to see kids grow every day – especially 8th graders where students change so much from the beginning to the end of the year.
Why Personal Finance: Kim somewhat fell into teaching personal finance. She was slated to facilitate a Dave Ramsey class for adults, but the teacher didn’t show and she took over. That was the seed. Then about six years ago, the district cut her English class. As they were shuffling teachers around, Kim “threw out the idea” to teach personal finance and the principal ran with it. They both saw the importance of preparing the next generation for a financially literate future. Since then, Kim found her passion and niche.
State Financial Education Requirement: Next year, entering freshmen will be the first class that will be required to pass a personal finance class to graduate in 2024.
Resources: Kim said she began teaching personal finance with resources from Take Charge Today from the University of Arizona. She said it was a “lifesaver (her) first year.” She then added tools from Next Gen Personal Finance and recently learned about FoolProof at the Jump$tart National Educator Conference.
Kim’s mission is to help her students find their dream. Their values. And to help them develop a sense of wellbeing. She wants to help them find what makes them happy. And yes, that’s related to personal finance.
In the first days of Kim’s personal finance class, the students determine their values and identify the values of their friends and family. It’s those values, Kim says, that impact all of their decision making. She wants her students to understand why their parents make certain decisions and how that likely impacts their own decisions.
That’s when they start talking about making money.
For Kim, finding happiness is about finding the right career – whether it’s as a plumber or a psychiatrist. There’s no right or wrong, there’s only finding what best fits each student and the path each takes.
One of the student’s favorite activities is creating a college pennant. However, Kim focuses her kids not on their favorite sports team, but on the school (or path) that’s right for them. And she’s not focused on every child going to college. Her students have the opportunity to tour an area technology center, a Toyota plant, and even a beauty school. While the program is run by the Family Resource Center (outside of Kim’s class), she encourages her students to go on the visits to see other ways they can create their best life.
During this process, she also stresses “there is no one size fits all for financial decisions.” She said she has such economically diverse kids and tells them, “some of you will be happy in an apartment, some will want a house.” Kim wants her students to know, the “don’t have to be what (their) parents are;” she wants them to find their place.
Once they find that place – or are at least open to possibilities – Kim turns her focus to laying a foundation that will help her students manage their money. She said they spend a lot of time on vocabulary to get a basic understanding of personal finance concepts. Then they address budgeting, savings, insurance, electronic banking, etc.
It’s this awareness of what money is and how it works that is critical to Kim. She’s also excited that personal finance will be a graduation requirement in Kentucky high schools. They will be able to grow from the ideas she’s planted but then they will be able to “dig in and get more practical advice.”
Before they can dig in, however, they have to visit the “Reality Store” for a dose of what life could be.
When the students arrive at the store, they are given, which is drawn out of cups based on their GPA; a marital status, determined by drawing rings from a bag; and (Kim’s favorite) told their family size by selecting a diaper and opening it to discover the number of kids. The students then go booth to booth to pay for daycare, get insurance, select clothing, and find a house, etc. – all staying within their budget.
Sometimes, unfortunately, students don’t stay within their budget. When that happens they can go to the “SOS” table for a second job. When they do, Kim talks to them about why they need a job and what choices they may need to rethink.
And some of the ways they rethink – involves the students’ biggest expense: kids.
She has had students say they shouldn’t have to pay for daycare because “grandma” will care for the child. Or others decide they should sell the children (they can’t) or put them up for adoption (they can’t). It makes for some interesting conversations, Kim laughed.
“It leads to great discussions on why it’s so important to plan your expenses on paper before the month starts,” she said. Even students who have money remaining, say if they had known they would have taken the vacation or bought a bigger house.
The reality is, that in Kim’s class students get their first dose of personal finance and can start to envision the life that’s right for them, which is exactly the reality Kim wants for her students.