Alisa Holman is the founder, math teacher and executive director of the Holman Leadership Academy, a Christian-based private school focusing on Pre-K through 6th grades. She worked over 15 years for Chicago Public Schools then left for a couple of years after having her daughter, Anayah, to open up a maternity and children's clothing store.
"I saw that even though I had my own business, I did not have the money skills to run the business successfully. I had to file for bankruptcy," she said, noting, "That taught me about credit, debt, managing finances and more. And, I wanted my daughter to learn about it as well. A lot of people have financial difficulty because they were never taught as children about money."
Alisa uses "real world examples – including economics" to teach kids and build an entrepreneurial spirit amongst her students. Every year, the Academy holds a business competition where students create their own business ideas, write up a business plan and hold regular business meetings to discuss their projects. Student ideas have ranged from greeting cards, to photography, to selling paintings and artwork on a website. The entire class works on the winning business idea and the "profit" raised goes towards financial aid for students.
Alisa tells her students that, "Everything they have and see is someone's business." She says, "The students get very excited about the topic because they all love money." But, the key is to talk about things that interest them such as video games, books and clothes. For example, Alisa notes, her students love to go to amusement parks. She uses their passion for going on rides at theme parks to help them learn about money management and business ownership. Some of the questions she asks her students include, "How does the company make money? Who has a job because of that product? Who are the customers that buy it?' Those three questions alone show there's a lot more behind the gallon of milk than meets the eye."
Alisa says teachers who may not feel fully equipped to teach personal finance can share their own life experiences with students such as going to an ATM, shopping or using a credit card. For example, she asks her students to scour newspaper advertisements and use percentages to figure out discounts for items they want to buy. Alisa also believes parent involvement is crucial in promoting financial education so she asks her students to talk to their parents about their jobs, how much they earn/spend, what kind of bills they pay each month, what kinds of products they purchase, which stores they frequent, where they bank, etc.
At the Academy, four age groups are broken into two classes with students ranging from ages 5-8 and 9-13. On "Money Monday," her older students play the Stock Market Game. "Time & Money Tuesday" teaches the younger children to tell time, count and identify real money and understand larger sums of money using addition, subtraction, division and decimals. Every day, Alisa also points out real life financial and business examples in newspapers and magazines such as The Wall Street Journal or Black Enterprise to prompt class discussions.
On "Presentation Friday", students deliver an oral "marketing" presentation and try to sell a "product" (a toy) to their classmates. Alisa also encourages creative debates such as, "Which toy will bring the highest profit – Barbie or Monster High?" Additionally, students are also rewarded with "credit" money (ranging from $.05-$.25) for good deeds they perform in the classroom such as answering questions correctly or helping others. Once a week, the students calculate their earnings and "purchase" an item out of the classroom "Treasure Chest" (e.g., small toy, etc.).
"Kids need to know about economics and politics to become educated adults who can make good decisions for themselves," states Alisa. "I share my own personal 'ups and downs' with money so they don't have to experience it the hard way. I tell my students every day that they are going to be future millionaires, and they have to buy Ms. Holman an island when they are successful."
Practical Money Skills commends Alisa Holman for her commitment to financial education at the Holman Leadership Academy.