A headline in his local newspaper, The Buffalo News, caught Economics teacher Robert Haley's attention. "Visa Inc. Ranking Shows Bills Fans Have Room to Grow on Financial Literacy" was the only incentive he needed to find out more about Visa's NFL-themed Financial Football educational video game and to help teach financial literacy to his seniors at Cleveland Hill High School.
"We couldn't do anything about the Bills' standing in the NFL, but we could do something about our 27th ranking on the Financial Football leaderboard," said Haley, who has been teaching economics, government and world history for 10 years. After visiting the Financial Football website and playing the game, Haley put together his own presentations that supported the Rookie (ages 11-14), Pro (ages 14-18) and Hall of Fame (ages 18+) and customized the curriculum to the needs of seniors enrolled in his Government and Economics class.
"It was a fun way to engage the students in learning how to save money, understand credit cards and use them efficiently. I pushed the importance of a good credit score," Haley said, noting he also talked to the 115 teens in his class about how to be safe online with practical advice on protecting their identity.
"Interactive education is so important," said Haley. "It's a huge motivation. Economics can be a dry subject, but the game (Financial Football) made it relevant, interesting and fun. The period ended and they all still wanted to play. And I had my ESL students (English as a Second Language) who were excited to play in Spanish."
His program consisted of teaching four days of Financial Football Training Camp before taking his students to the computer lab on campus and letting them play the game. Some of his students were fans of the Buffalo Bills and also the Super Bowl XLV's Green Bay Packers and Pittsburg Steelers. "Many of the students played for our hometown team, the Buffalo Bills, and helped them win the competition. Some of the questions were challenging, and I told them they had to play until they could win. Time would run out on a game and they would start all over playing again. They were really getting into it – sacking quarterbacks, causing fumbles and kicking field goals."
The challenge in educating students about personal finance is that many of them "are starting from no where. Their knowledge of money is nothing," he said. Many of the students will be moving out of their homes and going off to college at the end of the school year, so Haley was intent on teaching them the basics of saving and spending. He covered everything from paying for a car and cell phone bills to saving for college and getting financial aid. "Saving money is a good habit to get into and most Americans don't do it," noted
The course did have an impact on his seniors who earned credit for taking the class. "One of my students went to his bank the following week and changed his savings account to a money market checking account. The branch manager was surprised he even knew what it was. He knew he would could access his money, but the less he took out the more he earned."
The students who participated in the Financial Football Training Camp and game play learned about the importance of savings, what to look for in banks and how to invest money. In addition, students learned about the advantages and disadvantages of credit cards and the importance of credit reports.
And at the end of the competition on February 5, the Bills' fans propelled their team to the number one spot on the Financial Football leaderboard, claiming Visa's Most Valuable Team award. They recorded 935 wins and only 16 losses, racking up 19,574 points during the competition. And the headlines in Buffalo were a bit more favorable as well. "Area football aficionados score big in Visa competition" was the final headline in the Buffalo News. Haley enjoyed the moment, being able to teach his students valuable life lessons in personal finance – not to mention finishing as winners.
Practical Money Skills commends Robert Haley for his efforts and commitment to financial literacy education at Cleveland Hill High School.