Teaching material via YouTube? Professional development via Zoom? Teachers had to adapt in all kinds of ways during this crazy and unpredictable time (especially toward the end of last semester), and Jason Pearson of Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort, Illinois, really crushed it! As a teacher of the Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum, he’s committed to making sure that students get the education they need to be prepared in a world where anything can change at a moment’s notice. And he got super creative while doing it.
We got to chat with him about how he handled the virtual teaching situation, how his students responded to learning about personal finance during a crisis, and even what he’s been up to during his summer break (woo-hoo)!
Wrapping Up the Semester (Virtually)
Jason and his students didn’t let the weirdness and difficulty of the coronavirus situation stop them from embracing what the Foundations curriculum has to say about budgeting, saving and investing. While they definitely had to adjust their usual format, they were still able to stay united as a class. And that was because of Jason’s dedication to making sure he was still walking his students through the material just like he would in real life.
“You guys gave us some amazing resources,” Jason told us (thanks, Jason!). “So literally the only thing that changed was that I wasn’t in the classroom with the kids. We were still able to provide all the notes, videos, workbooks and assignments, and class still happened exactly as it would have, except we weren’t all together. And I taught via YouTube videos. So, it went as well as it possibly could have.”
We had to know more about the YouTube videos, so he explained that he really wanted his students to see him 30–40 minutes per day like they normally would—and even though not all of his students had computers at home, they still had access to YouTube on their phones. “I wanted the most widely available technology medium for them. I had 150 kids the first semester and about 120 the second semester, and I didn’t want those second semester kids to get robbed of the information that the other kids got, so I tried to deliver it exactly as I would in the classroom.”
Jason uploaded videos of himself walking through the material and watching the lesson content, stopping and starting to expand on the concepts or tell stories about his own experiences with money, just like he would have in person. He handled it like a pro (no surprise there, since he’s been teaching Foundations for about 11 years now)! And the students have been loving the material.
“I think it’s one of the coolest things when the light bulb finally goes off—to see the students say, ‘I can’t wait to start doing this! How do I start a Roth IRA? I want to start doing this stuff now.’”
Professional Development in a Pandemic
The students aren’t the only ones who had to adapt their learning styles—even the teachers at Jason’s school had to get used to virtual learning for their professional development courses. Usually, they have morning sessions or lunch-and-learns where they hear from different presenters about things like how to use technology in the classroom, understanding learning styles and other topics—sometimes accompanied by donuts.
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But of course, once schools closed, everything changed and they had to find another way. “It was called ‘PD on the Couch,’” Jason laughed. “They would send out articles that we’d read and reflect on, or lessons that we’d have to watch and respond to.” (For any of you who’ve done our digital Ramsey Education PD, that probably sounds pretty familiar. Who doesn’t love couch learning, right?)
Speaking of spending time on the couch, we asked Jason what his plans are for summer break—which we have to bet teachers are looking forward to even more than usual this year. High on his list is quality time with his wife, who also teaches at Lincoln-Way East High School (aww), and his 5-year-old twin daughters. “We’re not traveling to Europe or anything like that, but we have a lake in our backyard so we really just enjoy sitting out there, swimming with the kids, and having barbecues. We’re pretty simple.” Sounds like the perfect summer to us!
Helping Students Transition to College
With college coming up in the fall for a lot of Jason’s students, we were curious about how his class has responded to the idea of going to school debt-free. As someone who hasn’t always been perfect with money, but worked hard during college to help pay for tuition, Jason is the perfect person to teach on this topic. Students can learn from both his bad and good experiences. “That was the toughest sell, that you can be a student without a student loan,” he said. “But I always tell them, ‘It’s not easy, but it’s worth it and it can be done. You might have to write a bunch of scholarship essays, you might have to get a job, you might have to be an RA on campus, but I know it can be done because I did it.’”
And those lessons are definitely paying off. “This past year, I had one kid that was committed to play baseball at a Division III school,” Jason told us. “He took my class and said, ‘Wow—I'm paying an extra $25,000 a year,’ and he ended up changing his mind after chapter five of the Foundations curriculum. Now he's staying home and going to the local community college for two years, and then transferring to another school.” Think of the thousands of dollars that guy will save! Smart move.
Other students have reached out after they graduated to tell Jason how much they’re still using all the material they learned in class. “I’ll have kids email me saying, ‘Hey, I brought my Ramsey book to college. It’s in my dorm room with me.’ Or, ‘I busted out my Foundations book from four years ago, and now that I have a 401(k), I’m going to start investing in some mutual funds.’ The fact that a student will remember what I taught them years ago and feel comfortable emailing me for advice is one of the perks of being a teacher. That’s one of those things you hold on to when you’re having bad days, and I think that’s one of the coolest things about being fortunate enough to teach something that matters so much to these kids.”
And here at Ramsey Education, those stories make our day. We love hearing about how teachers keep changing lives—even during a global pandemic—using our curriculum. For more tips on teaching remotely, check out our latest blog.
Enjoy your summer, Jason (and all you awesome teachers out there). After this roller coaster of a year, you’ve earned it!