Financial Literacy for Everyone
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    Gladys Fitzhugh-Pemberton, Theodore Roosevelt High School, Washington, DC
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Innovative Educators

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.

David Sandlin

September 2013

David Sandlin
Walton-Verona High School
Walton, KY

David Sandlin, a former stockbroker, has been teaching economics for the past 18 years. Three years ago, with the support of Walton-Verona High School in Walton, Kentucky, he started teaching financial literacy to teenagers. Students had the option of choosing between economics and financial literacy classes to satisfy the high school's graduation requirement. Sandlin's classes teach 10th- through 12th-graders a wide variety of financial lessons they can apply in their current and future lives. From saving and banking to insurance and employment, the classes incorporate authentic, relatable material.

One of Sandlin's lessons, "I'm Going to Disney World," is particularly popular and earned him recognition as the 2013 Kentucky Jump$tart Financial Literacy Teacher of the Year in June. Each student is given a specific budget limit with which to plan a trip to Disneyland. The students then randomly pick family scenarios from a hat – some are single parents with one child; others are heads of large families with several children – and investigate the costs of transportation, lodging, food and souvenirs. Students learn to set aside money for special outings and emergencies and see firsthand that many factors can affect a trip's budget.

Another part of Sandlin's curriculum brings in guest speakers from the community. Bank representatives have talked to the students about the process of opening an account, business owners have discussed what they look for when hiring new employees, and insurance agents have explained the different types of products they offer. The speakers provide exposure to real people with experience in the professional world.

The unique aspect of teaching high school students, Sandlin says, is that they are in the midst of preparing to enter the workforce, go away to college and/or manage their own finances for the first time. One challenge he's encountered is debunking a number of misconceptions about finance – particularly that managing one's money is complex and time-consuming. By starting with the basics and applying them to real-life situations, he hopes his lessons instill more positive ideas about finance.

Inspiration for his lessons comes from just about everything – magazines, current events, TV shows, business websites, conferences and other teachers – resources that also help him maintain good finances in his own life. Outside the classroom, Sandlin and his wife are self-proclaimed strict budgeters who started planning for retirement early and try to model good behavior for their two teenage daughters.

In teaching finance to young people he encourages them to see that maintaining good personal financial habits is entirely possible and a straightforward process as long as you apply the necessary time and effort. He emphasizes that no one needs a special degree or a rocket-scientist's brain to be financially literate. He believes every student – and nonstudent – should be financially savvy and hopes the lessons he imparts will help young people avoid common pitfalls later in life and build confidence in their ability to manage their monetary affairs.

Practical Money Skills would like to commend David Sandlin for his ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy education at Walton-Verona High School.

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