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Lessons Reinforced by ‘Real World’ Speakers

Teacher: Joey Running  

School: West Albany High School (Albany, Ore.)

Subject: Personal Finance and Accounting

Grade Level: High School – 9-12

State Financial Literacy Requirement: Oregon does not have a requirement. It was removed in 1998.

Why Personal Finance: For Joey, teaching personal finance as a business teacher is “a natural fit.”

Why Teaching: In college, Joey realized she didn’t want to develop computer programs (after earning her business degree) – she wanted to use them. About the same time, she took an education 101 class and said: “it all came together.” She decided to “marry” her graduate business degree and teaching certificate, and the result was a curriculum that she truly enjoys teaching. There was, however, a bit more to it. Joey admits she was part of the generation where “we took out students loans to fund our education and after college – when you’re supposed to be having a surge of earnings – there were student loans and other things I wasn’t prepared for.” So, a part of why she teaches finance is to help other young people understand what they are getting into.

Resources: Joey shared that she wasn’t sure how she stumbled upon the Jump$tart Coalition, but that it and the Jump$tart Clearinghouse have helped her reduce the number of hours she spends looking for resources. The Clearinghouse, she said, allows her to point and click and have access to hundreds of resources. She said that changed her classroom. Today, she’s particularly fond of the NextGen Personal Finance resources, as well as Take Charge Today (University of Arizona) and the NEFE’s High School Financial Planning Program. In addition, truly enjoys the National Educator Conference, because, she said, when you go to the breakout sessions and realize there are other people doing what you are – you have found your support group.

Her Story

Each semester, Joey presents her classes with the foundations of financial literacy – checking, banking, budgeting, credit, investing and of course how to “plug numbers into mathematical formulas.” However, over the last few years, it’s the behavioral economics concepts that have really resonated with students, who want to know why they spend or why they wait. They want to understand the reasons behind the numbers – not just the numbers themselves.

So, she has begun weaving behavioral economics into her lessons; for example, why savings is so difficult for one person, but not another? During their lessons, real-life stories from the students come out. One student shared how her brother wanted to impress his girlfriend and spent most of what he earned. The stories help her students see financial literacy as it applies to their lives, but Joey doesn’t stop there. She couples financial decision-making with the presentations from community resources that show students what personal finance is like in the “real world.”

In teaching her students, Joey says she lays the foundation and uses business leaders and others from her community to reinforce her messages. She knows that her students don’t believe their parents and sometimes not even the teacher, but they will believe guest speakers from the “real world.”  She recommends that teachers tap into their existing networks – while a teacher may not have a direct connection to the person needed, it’s likely that through an existing network that the pieces will fall into place.

And once they are in place, she has found that the foundations + behavioral economics + “real world” reinforcement = financial literacy success.