Technology has transformed educational resources for countless educators, but has made a dramatic impact on one educator in particular. Sally Burnett at Holden High School in Holden, MO has experienced first hand technology's capability to transcend the learning environment for students in her financial literacy course.
Burnett explains that "teaching basic economic principles is really important. This is an awesome responsibility to teach this to students and I am really fortunate in my district that we have technology grants from the Career and Technology Education (CTE) division within the Missouri Department of Education, which provides business curriculum. Technology grants funded by CTE through the state opens up the entire world to our students."
She feels her students – 100 juniors and seniors who take the course each year – are in a good position to learn personal finance despite being in a rural area thanks to the resources available. "We have a very active chamber of commerce and local businesses support our school by visiting and speaking to our students."
After spending years in corporate America in the financial services industry, Burnett decided to pursue a career as an educator over 15 years ago. She has been a Business and Personal Finance educator who embraces technology both in and outside the classroom. Students have the privilege of attending field trips to places such as Google Fiber, and the KC Startup Village, where they are introduced to the latest technology. Burnett said real-life encounters like this challenge her students to think locally and globally. "It was amazing for the kids to be in that entrepreneurial environment. I am just so grateful to everyone who provides (educators) with resources and their time," she said.
Access to technology has been the catalyst to bringing change to her classroom and educational opportunities to her students. While attending an educational conference, Burnett was shocked to learn that Missouri is one of few states in the nation that requires a financial literacy course as a prerequisite to high school graduation. Online tools such as the Stock Market Game and Visa's Financial Football are excellent tools that can be utilized in the classroom to help teens improve their personal finance skills.
In 2015, Sally and her colleagues made the decision to "ditch the textbook" and bring engaging, project based activities to the juniors and seniors taking the financial literacy course. One of these activities is the Budget Challenge, provided through a partnership with the Budget Challenge and H and R Block Sally also employs lessons from the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy to teach finance basics such as supply and demand, opportunity costs and scarcity. They also learn about personal influencers and what may cause students to change their purchasing habits.
"It's so much more meaningful hearing from their peers," explained Burnett. "When questioned about what they have learned from their parents (about money management), some say they don't discuss finances at all. One student said their parents talk about budgets, and will pay for something their kids want up to a certain level of money. Anything over that limit, they have to pay for out of their own money. And the student said, â€˜I am frugal because of that.'"
Burnett has launched a Reality Check exercise where students research their career goals and project a 5-year plan based on income. It also incorporates the cost of continued education, recognizing the responsibility that exists behind student loans. During this exercise students will manage their monthly household budget as well, during this semester long course. Local bankers, insurance agents, employers and government officials visit the classroom to share their knowledge. Students receive monthly "bills" by email notification and they must make the payment and reconcile it in their checking account. "It's an awesome opportunity to teach them these skills," said Burnett. "They will be better off and will make them more marketable in a global economy."
An alumni of Holden High School shared his gratitude with Burnett and the success he found because of her course when they ran into each other at a local sports game. The former student explained that "he is learning a new skill and earning money, has a 401K plan and good insurance," explained Burnett. "At 19-years-old he knew it was important to keep learning and is already saving for retirement. That is hitting it out of the park. A home run."
Another classroom simulation that Burnett employs to help students prepare for life after high school is a speed interview session. She walks them through 50 questions to expect at a job interview. Students are required to dress in business attire and work in triads and rotate places acting as interviewer, candidate and observer. Burnett proudly shared that through her school, graduating seniors have the "opportunity to have a mock interview with local business leaders. That is opportunity for which college campuses charge, that is available at no charge to her students."
Burnett expressed gratitude to the Missouri Council for Economic Education, the Center for Economic Education at the University of Missouri Kansas City and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City for helping educators in rural communities like Holden. With much gratitude Burnett concludes by stating, "Without their support, I would not have half of the resources in my classroom that translate into action pushing the knowledge of opportunity to better our students."
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Sally Burnett for her ongoing commitment to financial literacy at Holden High School in Holden, MO.