For the past nine years, Jacqueline Prester has been teaching Personal Finance to students at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Massachusetts. She reaches approximately 200 students per year and her class continues to grow.
Jacqueline implements real-life examples and activities into her lessons. "It's important for my students to learn proper terminology and theory of personal finance,â€ she says. "But it's also imperative for them to synthesize that information and apply it in a practical way in their lives.â€ For example, the Webquest budget tool she created helps students find a job, salary, apartment listing, major car repair and other items they would need to budget for in the real world. Once their budgets are complete, the students serve as financial advisors to each other and make suggestions to improve their budgets.
Capitalizing on the popularity of gamification, Jacqueline gives her students the opportunity to learn through friendly competition. Every year, she takes some of her students to the annual Junior Achievement Stock Market Challenge. The event is a simulation of 60 days of stock trading in 60 minutes. Students act like they are on Wall Street and flag down brokers to buy and sell their stocks. News tips are frequently announced that change regulations and helps them make decisions. This year, 12 students from her school will compete at the challenge in Boston. Her students also participate in other stock market competitions using howthemarketworks.com, which allows students to invest a set amount of money in a portfolio. "Some students get really excited and drop by between class or after school to check how their stocks are doing,â€ she says.
Perhaps one of the most notable competitions Jacqueline and her students have been involved in is the National Financial Capability Challenge organized by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Treasury. The challenge unveiled in 2009 ran through 2013, and encompassed an online test for students with 40 questions about financial topics. The students who scored in the top 20 percent were given certificates and those who received perfect scores were honored at a special awards ceremony. Three of Jacqueline's students received perfect scores and were honored at The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. One of her students was even given a college scholarship and Mansfield High School was offered a matching grant for $1,000.
As part of a series called Eye on Education, Jacqueline and her students were featured on a CBS-Boston news story that focused on the innovative use of technology in personal finance education. Technology such as the Banzai software and the Knowledge Matters Personal Finance software are primary resources used in Jacqueline's classroom. The Banzai software, a program that focuses on budgeting and includes pre- and post-tests and activities, was provided by a local credit union as part of a sponsorship. The Knowledge Matters software, which provides financial literacy curriculum, was obtained from a grant Mansfield High School won seven years ago from H&R Block.
Often, Jacqueline uses her own experiences as teachable moments with her students. For example, she used her experience as a victim of a data breach to teach her students about how to protect personal information and the importance of frequently checking transactions and credit for fraud. For one student in particular, such a discussion saved him from a potentially financially catastrophic situation. After learning how to check his credit report, he checked his later that night at home with his parents and was shocked to see a delinquent mortgage on his credit history. Fortunately, he was able to address the issue quickly before he applied for college loans.
Jacqueline doesn't limit her financial literacy education to the classroom. In June, she was asked by the President of the Massachusetts Council on Economic Education to present a training session at The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The topic of the presentation was "Integrating Technology with Financial Literacy Education.â€ She was also approached to become a member of the Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative K-16 Taskforce and volunteers for the Massachusetts Jump$tart Coalition.
"I hope my Personal Finance course teaches my students to spend money wisely,â€ says Jacqueline of the approximately 1,800 students she has taught. Her greatest challenge so far is that personal finance is not a graduation requirement in the state of Massachusetts. Not all of her students have the availability in their schedules to take personal finance. She hopes that at minimum, personal finance is incorporated into common core curriculum.
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Jacqueline Prester for her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, MA.