In his Consumer Math class at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, CA; Tyler Hensley developed his own curricula based on experiential learning, helped students publish their own personal finance book, and much more–despite being just a few years into his teaching career. When asked why he took an experiential approach to his Consumer Math class, Hensley points to the Benjamin Franklin quote, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." Tyler explains, "I think we learn a lot more through experience that we can by reading a textbook."
As a student at USC business school, Tyler benefitted from the university's "Experiential Learning Center," where students learn management concepts and communication skills by "doing," an approach he found worked very well for him as a student. Applying this to his 11th and 12th grade Consumer Math students, all of whom had struggled with Math, was natural. He taught students that, "In business, personal connections and communication are much more important than the ability to memorize mathematical formulas." This information helped boost their self esteem and provide them with an understanding that it is a variety of qualities that will help them succeed in the workplace–many of which they already have.
One of the great successes of Tyler's fall 2011 Consumer Math class was the publication of a student-written, illustrated, and edited personal finance book, Road to Success, published in March of 2012. The book was a culminating project for the class, designed to provide other students with a comprehensive insight into how they can prepare for their futures after high school. "The students deserve credit for their hard work on the book," Hensley says. Each wrote and helped illustrate a chapter, and, as a result of their efforts, 130 books were published, with proceeds benefitting the local children's hospital. At a culminating party, students signed copies for the friends and family who had donated funds to cover publication costs.
Guest speakers from the local community were another key component of Hensley's Consumer Math class. He invited a bank manager and teller from a local branch to speak to the class; an activity that he says helped "bridge the gap between bank and individual." Before the visit, most of the students were keeping any money they had under their mattresses. The speakers helped students learn about FDIC insurance and the importance of interest in saving. The visits helped instill confidence in students regarding how banks work, the accessibility of tellers and the benefit of utilizing bank services. The visits also helped students from a professional development standpoint; enabling them to speak to the visitors about their positions and how they arrived there in terms of education and experience.
Hensley also welcomed to the class a movie producer friend, who led the students in the creation of public-service-announcement-type financial movies, another activity that helped them learn concepts like budgeting, credit, investments, diversification, and other key personal finance topics, from a more hands-on standpoint. Videos from his classes can be viewed here.
Tyler's background in wealth management and position teaching in Micronesia through the World Teach program were stepping stones to his career teaching Consumer Math at the high school level in California. In the field of wealth management, Hensley felt he wasn't making a difference among those who really needed financial help, so he resigned from his position after just two years. World Teach provided him with the opposite experience–he was able to reach students in much more challenging financial situations, and even witnessed some of his students be the first in their families to get into college.
The World Teach experience led him to pursue a teaching career within the U.S. At Ocean View High, he was also able to reach students who really needed help. "The two classes consisted of mostly seniors, most of whom received free and reduced lunch, and some of whom were special needs students. Two students left during the semester due to pregnancy and several were already responsible for supporting their families," he explains. "The entire semester, especially the production of the culminating publication, helped break down the barrier between formal personal finance options and the perceptions of students from a low socioeconomic background."
Since fall, Hensley has moved onto a new position at High Tech High School, where he is teaching Math and continuing to weave his business background, experiential learning and collaboration into his math classes.
Practical Money Skills commends Tyler Hensley for his commitment to financial education at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, CA and High Tech High School in San Marcos, CA.