Teachers instruct students on dollars and sense

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Students from Menifee County Elementary School visit the Wildcat Exchange bank at the high school. Elementary students who wish to use the bank (most use it for deposits) are brought to the high school once a week. Middle school students visit the bank during their lunch periods. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 3, 2011
Students from Menifee County Elementary School visit the Wildcat Exchange bank at the high school. Elementary students who wish to use the bank (most use it for deposits) are brought to the high school once a week. Middle school students visit the bank during their lunch periods. Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 3, 2011

By Matthew Tungate
matthew.tungate@education.ky.gov

Students graduating Kentucky public schools are expected to have learned complicated mathematical equations, been exposed to the great world literature and understand the underlying principles of how society functions.

They are not, however, required to know how to balance a checkbook, apply for a loan or create a personal budget.

That’s not to say students aren’t exposed to those and other financial literacy concepts, according to Michael Hackworth, business and marketing consultant at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), and Leslie Slaughter, family and consumer sciences consultant at KDE

“But there’s no mandated curriculum that is across the board in every high school or middle school,” Slaughter said. “The decision is left to the school to determine which courses are offered within the program.”

Many schools offer career and technical education courses that deal with financial literacy. For instance, Slaughter said, family and consumer sciences has a consumer economics course and a class called Money Skills for Math. Hackworth said business has a financial literacy class and a personal financial management class.

Other classes at the high school and middle school offer units on the topic, “but it’s a very small piece,” Slaughter said.

However, the Practical Living/Career Studies Program Review has defined expectations for financial literacy, she said, so it is not a topic schools can ignore, she said.

“As teachers and educators, it’s not only our job to teach the core academics, but to also prepare them for life after high school,” Slaughter said.

Hackworth said issues such as buying a car, credit cards and student loans will affect almost everyone.

“It’s just a skill they’re going got need throughout their life,” he said.

Slaughter and Hackworth were two members of a committee that recently recognized three teachers who are doing an excellent job of teaching students financial literacy.

Kristy Burberry, a business and marketing teacher at Menifee County High School; Kelly Scheuher, family and consumer sciences teacher at Hopkinsville High School (Christian County); and Amanda Comstock, a business and marketing teacher at Bullitt East High School (Bullitt County), were named Financial Literacy Teachers of the Year by the Kentucky Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

Kentucky Jump$tart is a non-profit organization of more than 30 individuals and organizations in business, government and education whose purpose is to evaluate the financial literacy of young adults; develop, disseminate and encourage the use of standards for grades K-12; and promote the teaching of personal finance.

Burberry was recognized for teaching work-based learning at Menifee County High. In addition to lessons on financial literacy, she coordinates a student-run school bank. The school bank is open to all students and staff in the district, and is sponsored by Traditional Bank. With the sponsor bank’s assistance, high school students interview to be “hired” by the school bank. Students go through orientation, and then actually run the bank by, for example, making deposits and withdrawals and evaluating loan applications to see if applicants are a good credit risk. The bank also does payroll deductions for staff accounts.

“Middle and high school students can visit the teller station to make deposits and withdrawals during their lunch period. Elementary students are picked up by banking students by class once per week. We print and deliver statements once per month. Students can see how their money grows when they make deposits,” Burberry said. “Many students will use this account to save for special things they want to buy or shopping trips, or high school students will use their account to save for prom, senior trip or car payments. No matter what you do after high school, money management is so important. Having an account while you’re in school gives you a jumpstart on developing those skills.”

Scheuher was recognized for her innovation and creativity in the classroom at Hopkinsville High.

For example, Scheuher had students use newspapers to search for jobs. The students then explained what types of skills and education were needed to do the jobs and what type of person would be best suited for them. Students also created a budget that included comparing and contrasting two local apartments in Hopkinsville or near the college they want to attend. In other activities, students looked up songs with lyrics dealing with money and played games to review what they had learned.

“This is an opportunity for students to be exposed to personal finance. The main reason I think this is so important is because they may not learn this at home,” Scheuher said. “It also prepares them to be a contributing part of society – to go to college, live on their own in a dorm and budget for their needs.”

Comstock was recognized for using collaborations in her lessons at Bullitt East High. Her financial literacy curriculum focuses on such elements as budgeting, investing and college planning.

“We use Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Curriculum,” she explained. “I have several guest speakers that come in for various topics. This is also very much project-driven. At the end of most chapters, the students have the opportunity to use the knowledge they have gained in a real life situation.”

All three teachers agreed that financial literacy can be incorporated into many subjects.

Scheuher, for instance, teaches about teen parenting and pregnancy.

“I have them calculate how much diapers cost for a day’s worth, a week, a month and then a year. Then they do the same for formula” she said. “They see the financial cost of the two essentials for a baby. Then we talk about everything you need for a baby: supplies, doctor visits, clothes, etc. Then we calculate as if a teen mom has an apartment on her own.”

Teachers in core classes can also teach financial literacy, Scheuher said.

“It is easier in math and science but can be for English as well,” she said. “How much does it cost to produce a book? Get an editor? Marketing for the book? It can be a short lesson on the importance of not only money but getting a good career as well. It is just a real-life experience everyone can relate to.”

Comstock said she tries to incorporate financial literacy into all her classes. For instance, when she teachers spreadsheets in Computer Applications, she uses a budget as an example.

Burberry said students can enjoy learning financial literacy, too.

“Being financially literate is important to any person no matter what they do in life,” she said. “I like to use as many online resources as possible or computer programs because this is the technology era, and our students grow up practically with a cell phone or computer in their hands. So teachers should adjust to this lifestyle and teach students accordingly.”

Comstock said students understand why they are learning financial literacy in her classes on the subject.

“At the end of every class I have the students write a letter to fellow Bullitt East students. In that letter they are asked to either convince other students to take the class or convince them that it is a waste of time and something they should skip. I also ask them if this should be a required class for graduation,” she said. “Of all letters that have been written, only two students have said this should not be a required class. All other students believe that it should be. To me, that is an amazing testimony to the material. Students are hungry for this information. When have you ever heard of a student thinking that any class should be required?”

MORE INFO …

Michael Hackworth, michael.hackworth@education.ky.gov, (502) 564-3472, ext. 4222

Leslie Slaughter, leslie.slaughter@education.ky.gov, (502) 564-3472, ext. 4224

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