Since she first began teaching three years ago, Amanda Medina has nurtured her students' passion for financial literacy through innovative programs and a hands-on approach.
When she joined Sharyland High School in Mission, Texas, Amanda with the help of Mary Jo Brisnahan, Department Chair of Career and Technical Education, revitalized the financial literacy program. While the high school offered micro and macroeconomics at a college level, there was a lack of financial courses for general education students. By recognizing a genuine interest in personal finance in these students, Amanda created an interactive curriculum for approximately 1,200 students ranging from freshmen to seniors, which has been offered for two years.
Amanda's Dollars and Sense class empowers students to reach for success after they graduate and to be financially responsible as they pursue their dreams. At the core of Amanda's teaching is a dedication to her students and passion for sharing knowledge. "It's my way of giving back," she explains. "I wish someone would have been there to talk more about money when I was young. My parents never talked about money. I want more for these students."
Reminding her students that everyone makes mistakes, she stresses what's most important is to learn through these mistakes. The real learning, Amanda says, is when students are encouraged to ask questions and engage in a dialogue about money. This is when students often have the "lightbulb moment," which is one of her favorite parts of being a teacher.
Through hands-on activities and lesson plans that involve financial literacy programs such as the National Consumers League's LifeSmarts and EverFi, Amanda brings finance to the classroom in a positive and engaging way. The Dollars and Sense class also incorporates Practical Money Skills' Financial Football and Financial Soccer games. Amanda says students love playing, especially towards the end of the year when they've covered many of the financial literacy topics in the games.
In addition to incorporating financial literacy in the classroom, as a Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) teaching advisor, Amanda took students to the July 2016 FCCLA National Leadership Conference in San Diego. They participated in Visa's Financial Football game event with over 400 students to sharpen their fiscal skills. Amanda is dedicated to the FCCLA's mission to promote growth and leadership development. "The Financial Fitness resources offered can help students drastically improve their personal finance skills," Amanda explains.
To improve her students' real-life experience and money skills, she took her Dollars and Sense class as well as her Lifetime Nutrition and Human Services class on a field trip to the local grocery store. She then created four rounds of challenges in which students were asked to find enough food to feed a family of five. The meal had to consist of protein, vegetables, fruit, dairy and carbohydrates, all costing under $15. The students were then able to prepare their meals with the ingredients that had been purchased. "It's interesting to see the melding of the three classes and how they work together," she said. "Some will say, ‘No, we can't afford it!' I am happy when I see them using their financial skills."
Looking forward, Amanda hopes to increase involvement in the community by collaborating with local credit unions and nonprofits. She has helped 130 students become certified with food handler permits, but would like to increase that number. It gives them an advantage for when they apply for jobs, whether it be part-time while they're in school or full-time once they've graduated. Amanda is working toward offering other certification programs in finance, customer service, hospitality and retail in collaboration with the local community college.
Above all else, Amanda cares deeply for her students and their futures. "As a student, I listen to teachers who believe in me," wrote the student who nominated her teacher for this honor. "My peers and I learn from teachers who love what they do and we apply knowledge when we know a teacher has our best interest at heart. Mrs. Medina is all of these things. She was my FCCLA advisor this year. Without her help, I wouldn't be the person I am today. She believed in me when no one else did and she motivates me every day to make good decisions — financially and in life."
Those words from her graduating senior student help validate that her courses are making an impact in these high schoolers lives. "The world will benefit from their skills and their heart, and their knowledge of finance will propel them forward," said Amanda.
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Amanda Medina for her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy at Sharyland High School in Mission, Texas.