April is National Financial Literacy Month and the good folks at Max Credit Union in the river region are looking for three teachers who do an outstanding job with financial education.

The community selects these through on-line voting.  My fourth-grade teacher friend Kris White is one of the nominees competing for $1,600 to be used for classroom supplies.  She teachers at Bear elementary and she and her class took time one day to show me some of what they study in math these days.

Kris passed along the voting info and I dutifully cast my ballot for her.

But what really got my attention was the background info about Kris and the other seven teachers in the running.  I was very impressed.  They all look like outstanding teachers.  I encourage you to take a moment and check them out.  Hopefully you will get the same feeling that I did, that the continual cries of the Doom & Gloomers about education paints too many folks in the classroom with much too broad a brush.

Jessica Lucas – Prattville Junior High; 8th Grade
Though an English teacher, Jessica Lucas teaches her students beyond the scope of English Language Arts. She explores science, history, math, and financial education with her students to engage their interest and to ensure they fully understand the context behind the novels she passionately teaches. For example, she explores money themes in “The Count of Monte Cristo,” as the plot allows her to explore with students the value of knowledge and careful planning with one’s finances and the dangers of frivolous spending. Through her creativity bringing central themes in this novel to life, her students leave her classroom with a deeper understanding of financial responsibility.

Whitney Dyer – Forest Avenue; 5th Grade
At Forest Avenue, the 5th graders participate in a “micro economy.” Each class elects a “mayor” and creates a “city council.” Each student is a citizen who performs tasks to earn paychecks that can be exchanged for goods at the end of year auction. They can also be fined, such as when a rule is not followed. Whitney helps her students as they set up roles and jobs in their “city” and serves to encourage and support them as they learn how to earn a paycheck and understand basic economic concepts.

Crystal Joiner – MPACT; 9th-12th Grade
As a Health Science teacher, Crystal Joiner not only educates her students about health services, she engages students in lessons that teach the financial aspects of the medical field. Students are charged with developing a budget, researching, and allocating costs for medical supplies and facility maintenance. She builds relationships of mutual respect with the students, encouraging them to reach their full potential. She is preparing them with life and financial skills that will serve them outside of the classroom.

Keisha Graves – Bear Exploration Center; 3rd Grade
Keisha Graves strives to create an environment where students can be successful both academically and in the real world. She incorporates hands-on exploratory learning through aids such as play money, dice, and play checks to explore numeric and monetary concepts. She uses real life experience and storytelling to start conversations and deepen understanding. For instance, she brings two books to life in her class: “If You Made a Million” by David M. Schwartz and “The Lemonade Wars” by Jacqueline Davies. She uses the storytelling to demonstrate how earning, saving, investing, and spending money work in the real world.

Melinda Brumbeloe – Stanhope Elmore High School; 9th-12th Grade
In addition to her ESL and Spanish classes, Melinda Brumbeloe teaches Career Preparedness. She brings in various activities to help students learn more about how to handle finances. She looks for creative ways to engage the students and prepare them for the situations they will face in the real world. She uses online learning activities, games, and guest speakers to help introduce and develop concepts. Her students then bring what they learn to life through projects, such as building a budget, balancing a checkbook, preparing to buy a car, developing group presentations, and more. Her students leave her class more confident and more prepared to handle financial situations they will face in high school and beyond into adulthood.

Paula Jackson – Bear Exploratory Center; Kindergarten
Paula Jackson brings financial concepts to life in her kindergarten class with fun activities – including songs, games, and interactive apps. These include the song and activity “I Love Money” and “Shake Your Piggy Bank” – both designed to explore the value, look and feel of each coin and bill. They build up their “piggy bank”, then practice counting their coins to spend what they earn each week in the classroom “shop.” Her passion for bringing these fundamental concepts to life help instill a love of learning and builds their confidence.

Henry Tellis – Sidney Lanier High School; 12th Grade
Many of the students in Henry Tellis’ Economics classes have had little to no financial literacy exposure. Henry strives to help his students overcome this obstacle by finding ways to apply what they learn in his class about economics to their everyday life. He works with them to learn how to build a budget, learn new ways to save money, and how to live a debt-free life. He knows the important role that families play, and he encourages his students to work with parents or guardians to learn what is spent in their households on everyday items. His students work on a project each year in which they create their own business or non-profit. He also works with the Alabama Council on Economic Education to help his students learn about the stock market.

Kris White – Bear Exploratory Center; 4th Grade
Kris White loves teaching, and two of her biggest goals are instilling a love of learning math in her students and increasing their performance in math. She shows how math plays an important role in financial success, and she builds real-world knowledge amongst her students in fun and exploratory ways though group, differentiated, and one-on-one instruction and learning. For example, her students become entrepreneurs as they manage coffee shops or lemonade stands online. They create the recipes, purchase the supplies, set the price tag, watch supply vs. demand, and keep an eye on economic and other influences (like the weather). She knows collaboration is a key element to learning and encourages her students to engage in discussion and debate.