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Rock Star Educator’s Name:
Julie Giglia

Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, Whitman, Massachusetts

Years as Teacher:
17 years

Grade Level(s): 

Business and Technology Department (courses taught: Financial Literacy, Investing Your Money, Entrepreneurship, Computer Aided Design, and Advanced Computer Aided Design)


Making Money Matter

April is Financial Literacy Month, and we are in the middle of the greatest pandemic of our century. The unemployment rate is 14.7% and 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the first week of this month. Our country is facing difficult times ahead. Julie believes now, more than ever, is the time to make a push and have all states mandate personal finance education for students in our schools.  In January, Whitman-Hanson Regional High School made financial literacy a graduation requirement starting in the next academic year 2020-2021. The school district wants to prepare students to be fiscally responsible individuals and when they leave to continue post-secondary education, join the military, or enter the workforce. With our help they will know how to save for retirement, understand the importance of having an emergency fund, and managing their debt.  Julie says she wants to ensure they have the financial tools and resources to protect and manage their finances.


Financial Education Requirement

In January 2019, Massachusetts signed a law to give students the right to have personal finance education in schools. The bill outlines that the state will establish standards around financial literacy, which schools could incorporate into their existing curriculum in subjects like math, business, and social sciences. Additionally, the bill hopes schools promote an understanding of financial education and would educate young adults in covering topics like loans, interest, online commerce, renting or buying a home, planning for higher education and for retirement, balancing a checkbook, and taxes.  School districts have a choice if they want it to be a graduation requirement.

In January of 2020, the Whitman-Hanson School Committee approved a request to make financial literacy as a graduation requirement for all incoming freshman (class of 2024). The school will be offering the personal finance classes to Juniors (11th graders) and the course will be taught by three business educators.

Additionally, in January, they found out that Whitman-Hanson was awarded two grants that Julie wrote.  The first grant was called NGPF Gold Standard Challenge which awards schools $10,000 if they make financial literacy requirement in their schools. The second grant was the Massachusetts Financial Literacy Planning and Implementation Grant in the amount of $11,770 for monies to write curriculum and obtain resources to support our school’s financial literacy endeavors.

Way to go, Julie!


Called to Teach

“During the 1990’s, I was a part time ski instructor in New Hampshire for four years and had the opportunity to teach an array of kids and adults skiing techniques and help individuals improve and reach their ski goals. The passion from teaching skiing, propelled me to leave a career as a project manager in the health care industry and pursue a career in business education. As a passionate business educator, I strive to advance student awareness and problem-solving skills to be exposed to real business experiences. For example, in my Financial Literacy classes, students take what they learn in class and apply it to their own lives. They build budgets, calculate loans, understand credit cards and credit scores, and learn the steps to buying a car.  These skills they can apply to their everyday life and will prepare them to become fiscally responsible citizens,” says Julie.


Go-To Resources

During this pandemic crisis, Julie is teaching students remotely using the following tech tools:  Zoom Video Conference toolsNearpod student engagement platform, Google Classroom a learning management system and Kahoot a game-based learning platform for distance learning opportunities.

Her go to resources for both online learning and classroom teaching financial education include: Next Gen Personal Finance as they have an array of lessons in personal finance, investing, planning for college, entrepreneurship, and offer excellent teacher professional development opportunities at no cost.  She also uses the Stock Market Game, a program of the SIMFA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association that connects students to the global economy with virtual investing and real-world learning.  Visa Practical Money Skills Financial Football and Financial Soccer are also interactive games that engage students while teaching them about personal finance skills. Julie says that the “Jump$tart Coalition is a wonderful resource for teachers seeking professional development opportunities to enhance their financial education knowledge. They host conferences such as the Jump$tart National Educator Conference (NEC) which enables business educators to collaborate and network and share best practices.”


Her Story

From Downhill Skiing Instructor to Business/Technology Educator

“After a variety of professional endeavors, I have transitioned to the career I am most passionate about is a high school educator for the business and technology department at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School in Whitman, Massachusetts. Over the course of my 17-year teaching career, I have taught personal finance to more than 1,200 students.

Technology plays a significant role in my financial literacy classes, which take place in a computer lab. Using technology makes personal finance exciting to learn and it is stimulating and current, helping students grasp the concepts more naturally. The topics she discusses in class include balancing checkbooks, budgeting, career research, paying for college, and insurance costs.

One of her more popular classroom activities is the Roommate Budget Project, which I created to help students understand budgeting in a real-world context. In this activity, two students work together to research the monthly costs of their future lives, like an apartment, job, salary, transportation, groceries, utilities and more. To restrict them to a tighter budget, their career choices must be relatively entry level, as opposed to those that require further education like lawyers and doctors. The students then create a budget in a spreadsheet and present a slide show with their findings.

I also teach an Investing Your Money course, which introduces students to saving and investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate. Students participate in the Stock Market Game, a program of the SIMFA foundation, this connects students to the global economy with virtual investing and real-world learning.  Additionally, Whitman-Hanson takes teams to the Junior Achievement/State Street Bank high school stock market competition in Boston, Massachusetts.

I share with my student’s practices in my own life and explain to them when I got my first job at Dunkin Donuts at the age of 16 making $3.65 per hour, I put half of my paycheck away to save which was approximately $26. The habit has continued into adulthood, sharing with my students my practices of good financial habits by saving money and taking advantage of her 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans, so I can save and budget for my passions like traveling, biking, skiing, and playing tennis.

Advocating for financial literacy in our school district and surrounding community has been happening for the last few years.  In 2019, we hosted our 5th Credit for Life Fair which 270 students experienced a financial reality check as our school district participated in the fair to foster financial literacy to all seniors. The event, held in our gym, was an interactive exercise which students visit booths to learn about financial decisions for various services and living expenses such as cell phones, renting an apartment, groceries, clothing, and purchasing a car.  Students are challenged to balanced their budgets.  Booths are staffed by local businesses (banks, insurance companies, and car dealerships) these volunteers discuss with students the realities of grocery, clothing, and car payments.  The Credit for Life fair is an excellent event that Business Department and School Counseling Department spearheaded and it brings students, staff, and the community together to advocate the importance of financial literacy for our students.  Click on the link to see video highlights:

As a lifelong learner, I am thrilled to be working in the field of business education. In 2016, I was awarded the Massachusetts Business Teacher of the Year and in 2017, I was selected to be a NextGen Personal Finance Fellow. Personally, I love teaching and learning, Professionally, I love being a part of my students’ quest to find their true passion. My goal is to constantly improve my skills as an educator and make a difference in others’ lives inside and outside the classroom.”