During her college education, Candace Fikis took her first Economics class and experienced a "light bulb" moment. "The world around me made more sense," she says, a revelation that drew her to helping others be more financially literate. Candace initiated the Economics program at Sycamore High School in Sycamore, IL, before moving on to teach Economics at West Chicago Community High School in West Chicago, IL, where she has been teaching for the past 14 years.
A proponent of simulations, Candace makes sure that her lessons incorporate real-life applications of concepts learned. "I know that so many concepts, especially financial markets, can be difficult to understand at their age," she says. "Simulations provide them with an experience and a foundation that will give them a deeper understanding."
Her unit on Financial Markets covers financial literacy concepts and features classroom speakers and field trips to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. One example involves a visit from traders from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group who run a trading floor simulation. The simulation is followed by a field trip, during which students ride the train to the Chicago Board of Trade Building, which houses the CME Group, for a tour and to experience the trading floor in action. Because of the simulation beforehand, students are better equipped to understand what is occurring on the real trading floor. Students also have conversations with CNBC reporters to learn about how world events impact the financial markets. A highlight of the field trip is a visit to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, where they learn the impact of monetary policy. "I hope that after these field trips, students understand how supply and demand affect their own investments such as 401(k)s and pensions."
Candace's dedication to teaching financial literacy to youth is not limited to the classroom. For the past four years, she has sponsored an afterschool program that prepares students to compete in the Illinois Personal Finance Challenge. This year, two of the top 10 teams were from West Chicago Community High School and one team placed second in the state, losing in extra rounds to the team that scored second in nationals. "The Personal Finance Challenge gives students the opportunity to learn beyond the classroom and the competitive element engages them in a new way," Candace explains.
Her biggest challenge teaching financial literacy to high school students is lack of time. "The class is only one semester long and I need to pick and choose what I can cover," she says. "Choosing a few key points among many is difficult." Candace hopes that she sparks some interest in her students and at the very least, opens a door to further exploration.
To practice good finance in her life, Candace regularly keeps a budget and makes saving a priority. She also incorporates her own personal finance experiences in the classroom to bring the concepts to life, like how she is saving for retirement and college for her two kids.
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Candace Fikis for her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy at West Chicago Community High School in West Chicago, IL.