At Interboro High School in Prospect Park, PA, Kathleen Claire works full time in the math department, where she provides professional development, materials, and support to the math teachers. She also teaches a geometry course, the combination of which is a full load by any standards. Claire is content with it however, and comfortable at Interboro, which is no surprise as she herself is an Interboro High School alumnus.
It was never Claire's intentions to return to Interboro as a teacher. She had aspired to a diplomatic position in the State Department, and with that in mind pursued Political Science and International Relations degrees at Wellesley College. Along the way, however, she became interested in the law and from Wellesley went immediately to law school at the University of Oxford in England, after which Claire practiced law for eleven years. She landed back in Pennsylvania as a corporate attorney:
"I was doing corporate litigation, which was all about money. Either my clients had money that somebody else wanted or my clients wanted money that somebody else had."
When friends suggested that she could be of service on the school board, she agreed, ran, and was elected. Claire spent four years in that service position; it was a role that convinced her that education was where she needed to be.
"It might seem like a dramatic switch, but it was an easy choice at the time. I simply realized that I could probably effect more change by working with students than by continuing to practice corporate law."
Claire became the principal at St. Gabriel's Parish School in Norwood, Pennsylvania, and it was there that she partnered with Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union in order to fill what she saw as an educational gap in her students' elementary school curriculum – financial literacy.
Armed with curriculum from the Practical Money Skills web site, Claire co- launched an extra-curricular program that met once a week for an hour during which students in grades three through eight learned financial concepts such as needs and wants, saving and spending, and credit and debt.
"One of the students was so inspired that he opened an account at the credit union and became actively involved in learning about interest rates in order to see how much he could actually make on his money."
Though completely voluntary, Claire's program, the first of its kind in Delaware County to offer any such financial program at the elementary school level, attracted 30 students in its first year.
Kathleen Claire has since left St. Gabriel's to land back at her alma mater, but the financial literacy program she created lives on. What's more, the program's success in teaching financial concepts at the elementary school level is being duplicated in schools all around the region.