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Opening Her Account to Help Students Learn

Teacher: Shelagh Quigley

School:   While Shelagh is attached to Lake Charles Boston Academy, but her classes are held at Starks High School and Vinton High School (in Louisiana).

Subject:   Financial Literacy and Business Math

Grade Level:   High school – focusing on juniors and seniors.

State Financial Education Requirement:   No

Why Personal Finance:  When Shelagh shares with someone new that she teaches personal finance, “inevitably their response is: I wish they’d had that when I was a school.”  She loves that what she does in the classroom has real-life implications for her students. Shelagh also enjoys that her background in private industry and a degree in business allow her to show her students “the real nuts and bolts of what they are going to need after they graduate.”

Why Teaching:  In life, sometimes fate comes into play, and for Shelagh becoming a teacher was “serendipity.”  When her son started school, Shelagh wanted to be available for him. So, she left the 9-to-5 corporate world to stay at home for five years. When she re-entered the workforce she became a substitute teacher.  Shelagh said she “really loved it and found out (she) was good at it.”  She found she was (is) really passionate about is education. As a high school dropout, who later joined the Army, Shelagh says she knows “how valuable that seat is.”

Years Teaching:   17

Resources:  Shelagh gets many of her resources from the  and NEFE’s High School Financial Planning Program. However, her favorites come from Next Gen Personal Finance(NextGen).  Particularly when it comes to NextGen, Shelagh likes their ability to create new resources quickly. She, also says that if she didn’t attend the National Educator Conference that she’d “feel like (she’s) missing out.” Aside from the food, she says “the resources and the opportunity to network with (her) colleagues from all over the country and even a couple from around the globe – is so energizing.”

Her Story

Shelagh said her students are from less affluent areas of Louisiana, so she says her lesson plans are written in clay – she’s flexible and works with her students as issues or questions arise. “I’m really lucky that I have the autonomy to go wherever the kids want to go with a lesson,” said Shelagh. “My students run the show.”

For example, because of her students’ age, they often want to know about buying a car. Shelagh says it’s a great opportunity to show them everything involved: a budget, insurance, repairs and gas. She’s able to help them make real-life decisions.

Shelagh also worked with one of her students who had a job at Burger King and was paid on a debit card instead of direct deposit, which removes the opportunity for saving, opening bank accounts and truly understanding personal finance. In fact, the student had to pay $3.50 to check her balance. When they crunched the numbers it cost the student 45 mins of work to find out how much she had. She helped the student learn what her options were and how to better manage not only the money aspect of the job but working with human resources and management to get direct deposit to put her on a better financial path.

One of her favorite exercises to help students see differently involves an old-fashioned check register. She gets a local bank to donate a stack of blank check registers and asks her students to write what they spend – to be more mindful of how their money flows.

But she doesn’t stop there. She actually opens up her own account and shares what she makes and what she spends. She said, she “thinks it’s really important. No one is going to do that for them.” She wants them to see real money and how real money acts.

Her passion for helping her students pays off. She sees it when they call after they graduate asking for advice or when their parents contact her. Helping her students find their path to being financially literate is what she loves.