Innovative ideas and programs are what turns information into learning. Meet our Innovative Educators – dedicated professionals who have found new ways to teach practical money skills in the classroom.
Alex NevarezGillette Elementary School
Green Brook, NJ
Alex Nevarez applies his 15 years of experience in finance to teaching kindergarteners and first-graders about money management. When he was working in the financial services industry, Alex worked early in the morning and held a part-time job at a daycare center in the afternoon. But when he was laid off from his finance job in 2009, he began working for The Work-Family Connection, a company that provides before and aftercare services to local schools, and decided to combine his passion for teaching and finance.
At Gillette Elementary School, Alex teaches kindergarteners and first-graders about the importance of saving, budgeting, credit, stocks and currency in a program he calls Money Mornings with Mr. Alex. "We start at the penny and work our way up to the stock market," he says. In the beginning of the five-month curriculum, Alex gives each student a piggy bank. During the subsequent lessons, he pays them with fake money they can either save in their piggy banks or use to purchase something in the classroom store every Friday. After a parent mentioned that his son suggested using a credit card to buy him a toy when he ran out of cash, Alex incorporated lessons about credit cards. Alex supplies the students with their own credit card to deposit and withdraw money in a fake ATM. The students receive a receipt if they withdraw money, along with a statement.
To teach the students about the importance of saving, Alex shows the students pictures of short-term and long-term goals and has them draw pictures of their own goals for which they would like to save money. Stocks are another aspect of Alex's lessons. He chooses kid-friendly stocks with recognizable names like McDonald's and Disney to track over time. Together, they note whether the stock went up or down on a Stock Chart.
Alex uses a variety of resources to complement his lessons, though finding good resources for his students' age group on the Internet can sometimes be difficult. He recommends using handouts with pictures they can color in and amusing videos like Birth of a Coin (http://www.usmint.gov/kids/cartoons/birthOfACoin/). The Allowance Game, a board game about money management for ages 5-11, is another popular resource. In addition, Moneyinstructor.com (http://www.moneyinstructor.com) and Money Savvy Generation (http://www.msgen.com) supply handouts and worksheets.
His students have exhibited a positive change in their money management through the curriculum. More students started saving their coins and changing them for dollars rather than shopping in the classroom store every Friday. One student had saved as much as nine dollars.
According to Alex, the key to teaching such young students is making the lessons quick, fun and simple. By teaching 10-minute lessons and incorporating hands-on activities like withdrawing money from a toy ATM machine, he is able to keep the students engaged and enthusiastic. It also helps to use familiar names and brands and simplify terms as much as possible.
"It's important to teach finance starting at a young age. The younger you start, the better you'll be as an adult," he says, explaining that his own parents emphasized the importance of saving when he was young. When he got his first job at the age of 12 as a paper boy, his parents signed him up for a savings account and told him he should put half of his income in the bank. Today, he manages his own money by closely tracking his spending, investing and keeping up with the latest financial news via CNBC, Bloomberg TV and The Wall Street Journal.
Alex's ultimate hope is that his students remember the underlying concepts about money management and stocks as they grow older.
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Alex Nevarez for his ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy education at Gillette Elementary School.
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