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Every month, the Jump$tart Coalition honors one ROCKSTAR teacher who is making a difference in financial education. These teachers are helping the students of today become successful adults by teaching them about money in school. 

Our ROCKSTAR teacher for October 2023 is Mrs. Laura Falk!!
Fairbanks High School | Milford Center, Ohio

A conversation with Mrs.Falk

Why were you called to teach personal finance?

I figured out in my sophomore year of high school that I was going to become a teacher. When I thought about what I would like to teach, I knew the answer immediately. I decided that I would become a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher. I currently teach Personal Financial Management, Principles of Food, Global Foods, Child Development, and Transitions and Careers. Financial Management is one of my favorite classes to teach! I love that the content can be applied immediately and will be used for the rest of their lives. Continuously watching students have “ah ha” moments fuels my passion for teaching.

 

How do you bring personal finance to life in your classroom?

I use a lot of NGPF (Next Gen Personal Finance) resources. One thing that is really important to me is that my content stays current and relevant. The best part about NGPF is that their Updated 8-22-23 Jump$tart Coalition Monthly Teacher Spotlight curriculum is frequently updated and FREE! The world of finance is constantly changing, so I believe our resources and curriculum should keep up. I use NGPF’s “Question of the Day,” FinCap Friday, and blog posts to stay up to date with what’s trending in the financial world.

One thing that I feel helps my content to “stick” is that I am always sharing personal stories and life experiences with my students. This helps my students to see that I am a real person too, who has lived life, made mistakes, and learned from them. I also work hard to make connections throughout all of the classes that I teach. Whether we are talking about grocery shopping in Principles of Food or how much it costs to raise a child in Child Development, I am always looking for opportunities to make the finance curriculum relevant and “real life” for my students. Ohio has recently begun requiring a stand-alone Personal Finance requirement of all graduates, but my district was way ahead of the curve! They have been requiring this of graduates for many years, and I am thankful that I am the teacher in my district who has the opportunity to teach it. I have recently begun presenting for NGPF at conferences, and I see this as a way to equip fellow educators with incredible resources that they can use in their own classrooms.

What was your “ah-ha” moment?

I love when I can tell that my students finally “get it” and that it’s clicking with them. I had a former student who was in his early 20’s run up to me at the grocery store and he was so excited to tell me his credit score! He knew I would be proud of him, which of course I was. Another student of mine who recently turned 18, asked me to help him figure out which credit card was best for him. We sat down and looked at the available options and talked about pros and cons. When I reminded him of what we had discussed in class about paying it off in full every month to avoid paying interest, he said “Yes, I remember and will be paying it off monthly!”

 

What else do you want us to know?

My biggest piece of advice to other teachers is to let students see your passion and be vulnerable! Don’t be afraid to tell jokes, act goofy, or let them see your personality shine through your teaching. This makes you memorable and helps your students connect with you. One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is the relationships I have been able to build with my students. I have kept in touch with many of them after graduation.

One of my favorite quotes is by Steve Jobs. He said “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” I share this quote with my students and I try to help them discover their passions and interests to help them plug into future careers.

Mrs. Falk’s favorite resources

More about Mrs. Laura Falk

I have attended Jump$tart NEC 6 times, with my first time being in 2015. This was where I discovered that there is SO much more to the world of teaching Personal Financial Management than I ever knew! I have met so many incredible educators at Jump$tart NEC and they have become my friends. There have been many times we have shared ideas or resources to use in our classrooms. I look forward to attending every year and learning about the latest and greatest in financial education.

I personally love teaching about credit cards and budgeting. I know that credit cards can either be someone’s biggest downfall or a tool they use in their financial journey. My students complete a cumulative budgeting project at the end of class for their final exam. They research their starting salary and take out taxes to find their net pay. Next, they pick a city to live in, find an apartment, purchase a car, pay for their health insurance, buy groceries, etc. My students always talk about how much they love this project because they get to make their own choices and personalize it! It’s a fun way to end class that helps to apply a lot of the content they’ve learned. I am married to my wonderful husband Dan and we have 3 children. In my free time, I love to play sand volleyball and travel. A fun part of my job as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher is that I am the FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) advisor at my school. We do service projects in our community and my members learn how to become leaders amongst their peers and in our community. FCCLA has provided a ton of incredible opportunities for my students! We have advanced to the FCCLA national competitions in San Antonio, TX, Atlanta, GA, Anaheim, CA, Denver, CO and San Diego, CA.