After devoting time at her children's school as President of the Parent Teacher Association, Alice Stocks realized her passion for education and decided to obtain a degree in education from Southern Illinois University. For the past four years at Granby High School, she has taught two classes, Economics and Personal Finance and Accounting, to 10th, 11th and 12th graders, reaching about 144 students per year.
While her Accounting class is an elective focusing on numbers and critical thinking details, Alice's Economics and Personal Finance class is a graduation requirement that teaches students about the economy along with savings, investing, banking, interest, credit and other financial literacy concepts. From online simulations to games, Alice uses a variety of resources in her lessons like Practical Money Skills' Financial Football and Junior Achievement's Finance Park, a simulation in which students are given a job, family and various expenses. "[When playing Finance Park] some students have complained that they don't have enough money and I tell them, â€˜I can't help you with that!' You need to budget and prioritize. It's an excellent learning experience before it becomes real life for them," says Alice.
After a positive experience with Junior Achievement (JA) during the 2011-2012 school year, Alice became the first teacher in her district to initiate a partnership with JA that eventually spread to all of the high schools in Norfolk. Volunteers visit Alice's classroom weekly for three seven-week programs – Exploring Economics, Business Ethics and Success Skills – that include fun, interactive and educational activities that "break up the monotony of lecture and assignments and keeps students engaged." The partnership has also led to opportunities outside of the classroom. Last February, Alice was a featured speaker at JA's Hampton Roads Business Hall of Fame dinner in Virginia Beach. She chose one of her students to accompany her, and they both gave speeches about the program's positive impact on education. She was told that the speeches were so touching that donations doubled from the previous year.
Though her Economics and Personal Finance class is a graduation requirement, there is no end-of-course assessment. To add rigor to the course, the students complete "Gen i Revolution" missions and modules in EverFi and FoolProof. Alice's students also take the W!SE Financial Literacy certification test. Her students' tremendous improvement in test scores demonstrates that Alice is achieving success with her lessons. In the 2012-2013 school year, her students showed a 20.6% increase in scores between pre- and post-testing on the National W!SE Financial Literacy Test.
She believes that learning from others' personal financial pitfalls can be an effective way to bring financial concepts to real life. She is not shy about sharing her own experiences with her students. "Some students come back and say they shared the lessons from class with their parents and the parents will in turn share financial stories with them. The goal is to get positive financial discussions started within families to help students avoid some of the pitfalls from previous generations."
Alice's dedication to education goes beyond teaching financial literacy to her students. She also mentors her colleagues who have less experience teaching financial literacy, and takes every opportunity to attend any type of training, whether it is a financial literacy conference at the state level or training sessions at the Center for Economic Education. Whatever insight and new resources she obtains, she always shares it with her colleagues. "We are a close group and we really feed off each other," she explains.
A difficult part of teaching financial literacy to high school students is their resistance to some of the lessons. "When I teach the lesson on check writing, the students say, â€˜I don't need to know this, I can just use my debit card,'" says Alice. "But it's my job to push past their resistance and help them understand that all aspects of money management are important."
Her goal as a financial literacy teacher is to arm her students with important information that will help them and their families achieve a healthy financial lifestyle. In her own life, Alice didn't have the privilege of learning about finances early on. Now, as an adult, Alice questions every purchase she makes. "Is this a need or a want? Do I have to have this right now or can I wait?" She also researches major purchases before shopping, avoids pressure from sales persons and keeps a budget.
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Alice Stocks for her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy education at Granby High School.