The recent economic climate inspired Lisa Rodriguez, the enrichment teacher at Bedford Road School in Pleasantville, NY, to introduce financial literacy classes to her students in grades 2 through 4. She says, "Hearing news of people buying homes they can't afford then having to foreclose and putting so much on their credit cards made me realize how many adults don't know how to take care of their finances. It is important to teach children about saving so we can create a society where people don't face financial problems and difficulties."
As the school's curriculum coordinator, Lisa ensures that lesson plans are aligned with New York's Common Core Standards and all students get equal access to enrichment programs. She has been at the school for almost nine years but started teaching financial literacy classes five years ago. A parent (who was a financial analyst) and fellow teacher helped her to develop a curriculum, standards and goals for the program.
Lisa's success in the classroom reflects her philosophy that after 10-15 minutes of lecturing, students, especially in grades 2-4, need hands-on activities and time to share. Her students: play budgeting games; identify U.S. and international paper money and coins with a magnifying glass; do coin rubbings; design their own money; and write checks. Lisa partnered with two local banks that visited her class. She gives each of her students their own "virtual" checkbooks and money to pay for items such as rent to be in the classroom each month. Lisa says, "The kids love their checkbooks, and they love to write checks!"
Additionally, Lisa uses a Smartboard to create Jeopardy-like money games. She teaches her students about cash, credit, ATM machines and debt. "The students are shocked about interest and the cost of credit if it is not used wisely," she says. Lisa teaches her financial literacy class once a week during a 10-week cycle. Her fourth grade class culminates with an online Stock Market Game in their computer lab. Lisa's class came in second place in Westchester County last year and was invited by a parent to visit the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Since financial literacy is one of Lisa's passions, she spends much of her time outside of work researching and learning about money and investing. She watches CNN and stock market shows such as Jim Kramer's "Mad Money." Lisa reads the Wall Street Journal and relies on websites such as the U.S. Mint and TD Bank, for fun lesson plans and online activities. Lisa also attended a five-day personal finance class at the NYSE. She now successfully manages her own finances and stock investing so she can share the experiences with her students.
Selected as "Teacher of the Year" last year in Pleasantville, Lisa shares her secret, "Look for lessons that you enjoy and speak to parents, local businesses, even at PTA meetings where you can share what you are doing and get the entire community behind you."
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Lisa Rodriguez for her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy education at Bedford Road School.