Margie Chinadle isn't just the Adult Living Skills teacher at North Star High School–she is also a Family Economics and Financial Education (FEFE) National Master Educator, a role that requires her to work with other Master Educators from across the country to develop financial education curricula for teachers to use. FEFE is a program of the Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research (TCAI) at the University of Arizona. "My role developing curriculum has definitely made me a better teacher," she says. Continually trying new lessons and strategies to keep kids engaged in learning about personal finance is her goal and her passion.
Chinadle's Adult Living Skills class is a 2-semester course taken primarily by seniors. When she began teaching the elective course in 2001, it was practically empty. Now, 50–80% of students elect to take the class during their senior year. Part of its popularity, no doubt, is due to her hands-on, experiential approach. Of her teaching style, Chinadle says, "I tend to teach outside of the box." She continually tries new strategies in order to keep teens engaged, focusing on bringing the focus back to them and relating lessons to their lives. A good example of this is her portfolio project, where students compile critical paperwork, forms and information to ensure they are prepared for life after high school, whether it takes them to college or into the workforce.
As part of the portfolio project, students fill a 3-ring binder with a finalized page at the end of each lesson. Pages include a complete W-4 form (which students can refer to when completing their real W-4), a rental lease, cost-conscious and healthy recipes they can prepare on their own, research on buying furnishings for their first apartment, job applications and more. The completed binders aren't just an integral part of their course grades, but an essential tool for students after graduation. As fellow educator Tracey Newman says of the project, "The goal is for them to use these portfolios for the rest of their lives. I think her students leave high school a step ahead from the rest of the world."
Other projects in Chinadle's Adult Living Skills class are similarly innovative, including a project that requires students to learn more about the "life cycles" of financial planning by creating a video slideshow that charts a parent's or grandparent's financial evolution. They study the financial steps people traditionally take as they progress through life, from buying a car, to purchasing a home. She asks them to consider whether their family member took certain steps at a different time from many people, and why. For instance, if a grandparent were called upon to raise a grandchild unexpectedly, how would it influence their financial picture? Studying how life circumstances affected someone's finances–and noting how they handled it–was an important lesson for kids about managing unexpected life events.
Students in the class are also required to take their lessons into the community, visiting a nearby retirement home to teach residents about electronic banking and online safety. "It's a fun way for them to take what they're learning out into the world," Chinadle says. Exercises like this not only make learning personal finance more fun for the students, they also have a positive impact on the community. "I see so much value in it," she says.
Chinadle's role in FEFE has been equally rewarding. She says that collaborating with her fellow FEFE teachers, all of whom bring to the table unique teaching styles and backgrounds, has taught her an immense amount about teaching. Working with FEFE is an experience she encourages other educators to become involved in, as well. The June 2012 FEFE national training (http://fefe.arizona.edu/pro-dev/training/national-training) is just such an opportunity.
Margie Chinadle's admirable efforts in the field of financial literacy education can be summed up in this statement by educator Tracey Newman. "She is an impeccable example of what financial educators should be doing in this country."
Practical Money Skills commends Margie Chinadle on her efforts and commitment to financial literacy at North Star High School in Rudyard, MT and nationally as a FEFE master educator.