High school educator Paul Coleman combined finance and football by inviting Philadelphia Eagle Offensive Lineman Brandon Brooks to his classroom to speak about the importance of financial literacy and play a game of Visa's Financial Football in May. Coleman has been teaching business and sports management classes for 14 years, and most recently a Personal Finance course for the past seven years at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.
By utilizing his background in personal finance and sports management, he engages his students in money management topics, taking a modern tech-focused and project-based approach to the curriculum. To show his students how important personal finance is in the real world, Philadelphia Eagle Brandon Brooks and 6ABC sports reporter Jamie Apody joined Coleman's class on May 6 to play Visa's Financial Football game and speak to students about the importance of personal finance management starting at a young age.
"Brandon jumped right in. He's really into managing money. He wants to help young players out and teach them how to manage their money. Brandon really is a perfect role model for kids," said Coleman. Brooks recently signed a 5-year $40 million contract with the Eagles, all while enrolling at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to complete his MBA. Students heard first hand from a professional athlete how important personal finance is to know since Brandon is enrolled at Wharton to learn what they are studying. Students heard how easy it is to lose money if you do not have the knowledge about credit and investing.
Having Brooks in the classroom added a lot of energy and excitement when students faced off in teams playing a competitive game of the NFL-themed Financial Football. "Brandon had a motivational presence," said Coleman. "The kids had never met a professional athlete before. They were excited. The player took time out of their day to speak to them about what it's like getting a first paycheck and getting drafted. It was an amazing experience for the kids. It motivated them to go for their dreams and goals and learn."
Coleman also uses interactive and relevant resources to reach his students. He uses competitive games such as Financial Football and Visa's World Cup-themed-Financial Soccer games to increase students' interest level and interaction when learning about budgeting, saving, credit reports and the wise use of credit. "Combining sports with the subject they're learning increases engagement, he says.
His Personal Finance course is broken down into subjects such as career, budgeting, salary and retirement. Although Coleman first started with more traditional teaching methods such as vocabulary lessons and exams, he realized that there were more effective ways to teach the topics. Coleman adopted a project-based learning strategy to help students understand subjects by making the content more realistic, practical and engaging. His course focuses on projects that teach students how to create a budget, plan for retirement, and assess what they would be able to afford if they chose their desired career path. "The projects make it real for students. They are put in a position to do their own research and collaborate with someone in the class," he said.
One such project is the Roommate Project, in which students team up and research costs such as rent, groceries, car, loans, investments and stocks. They chose a career and research how to buy a house and car based on the salary of their desired career with a budget spreadsheet. The project shows the students how much they would need to save if they wanted to retire at 65, as well as the various methods to go about saving for retirement such as a 401k.
As an educator, Colman tries to make his lessons as real as possible and connect with the students. "It's not just about taking a test or memorizing definitions," he says. "I want to leave my students with the tools that will prepare them to make decisions for the rest of their lives," said Coleman.
Coleman and other teachers at Plymouth Whitemarsh are trying to make the course a requirement in the next few years and increase the number of classes taught at the high school. "I hope schools make the course a requirement. There's no other subject quite like this, because it impacts every person," says Coleman. He believes that the course should be taught to 10th or 11th graders when kids are 16 or 17 and working for first time and thinking about college.
The students who have taken Coleman's class have impressive test results. They take the national personal finance pre-test at the beginning and end of the course as a final exam to test how much they have learned. Most students do not pass the exam at the beginning of the course, but the majority passes the post-test. Coleman has been told by many of his students that it's the most useful and practical class they have taken in high school. "It takes a change in thinking, but as people become more educated, a lot of financial issues can be avoided by a little education and understanding," says Coleman.
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Paul Coleman for his ongoing commitment to financial literacy at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.