Think back to that teacher. You know the one. They impacted your future and truly cared about you. Maybe they made everything you learned come alive by using real-life experiences as examples. Maybe this teacher helped you feel ready to take big, important steps toward your future, and maybe you even came back years later to thank them.
Amy Burns is that teacher to her students at Centerburg High School.
So, how did she come to teach Foundations in Personal Finance? It all started when Amy was flat-out disappointed by the personal finance curriculum she was offering her students. Then she remembered hearing about Foundations from years of listening to The Ramsey Show. She was eventually able to get our curriculum at her school, and the rest is history! Here’s how Amy helps her students make the connections between what they’re learning from Foundations and their everyday lives.
Explaining the Why and How Behind the What
Two of the core (and countercultural) teachings in Foundations is to avoid debt and be generous. Clearly, Amy agrees because “Pay it forward, don’t pay it backward” is a principle she teaches her students in all sorts of situations. But sometimes teens have a hard time grasping the concept of generosity. To help motivate them, Amy pulls from her own personal experiences.
When the 2008 economic crisis hit, Amy’s husband was out of work for several months. During that time, they were a one-income family, but some extremely generous people helped Amy and her family while they were struggling. By explaining how much their generosity meant to her, she encourages her students to follow The Five Foundations and to give abundantly.
“You never know when someone close to you will need that generous gift,” Amy tells her students. By taking a difficult concept and applying it to real life, she helps students understand why they should give, not just that they should give. So many times as adults, we tell our kids what to do, but we don’t show them how to do it and why. Having been a former teenager, I know that they need to be taught how to be adults.”
Amy isn’t shy about sharing some of her personal failures—like having revolving debt for years—to motivate her students to get their finances in order. “I’ll tell them, ‘This is why I want you to really think about [your finances], because this is what happened to me.’ I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I did.”
Building Wealth . . . for the Right Reasons
Another way Amy reaches her students is by tapping into their current interests. “They get excited about building wealth because they’re always watching YouTube and TikTok stars. They want to be wealthy because they see it on the outside.”
Her students—like many other teens today—associate wealth with being a social media influencer. Instead of just dismissing their social media obsessions as immature teenage behavior, Amy leans in and explains that most people have to build wealth slowly over time. She makes the most of their desire to be rich by explaining why building wealth is important and how they can become everyday millionaires.
Amy uses something in her students’ real life to create a new frame of reference for them. In her community, there are two nursing homes. Many students live with their grandparents, and many of her students’ parents work in nursing homes.
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“I’ll ask them, ‘What’s it going to look like to retire? How much money do you want to have in the bank for end-of-life care?’ Now being a millionaire is less about material things and more about not being a burden to those around you when you’re old. I’m using this real-life experience of theirs to help them think forward,” she explains. “The truly wealthy people are often the ones we don’t even know about.”
This combo of a world-class teacher and a world-class curriculum is making waves in Amy’s school. She told us that she gets “notes and emails from students saying, ‘Everybody in this school should be taking this class.’ When parents find out that we teach Foundations, they make sure that their students get into our class.”
In addition to helping students think long-term about building wealth and giving generously, Amy enjoys getting her students to think about life immediately after high school. “I’m constantly thinking, How am I preparing my students for the next five years?” She’s so grateful that Foundations helps them think through and prepare for the big choices they’ll face as they leave high school.
Walking the Talk
Right now, you might be thinking, Wow, Amy sounds legit. And you’re right! But you haven’t even heard the best part yet.
Amy, her husband and their three kids love to travel together. So they saved up and cash flowed a two-week backpacking vacation across Scotland. “We cash flowed it because we planned ahead. It was just amazing. It’s absolutely freeing and empowering to know that we paid cash for everything we did . . . And our children saw what we were doing.
“Because of Dave Ramsey’s information, my husband and I have been able to live these principles out and pass them on to our children. And I know they’ll pass it on to their children.”
Amy is leaving a legacy for her students—and her own children—by walking the talk in her own life.
A Word of Advice
And that’s Amy’s top advice for any teacher who’s taking their students through the Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum. Here are her final thoughts: “I think it’s important for other teachers to invest in themselves and enroll in a Financial Peace University course near them so that they’re not just talking the talk, they’re walking the walk. If a teacher is up to their eyeballs in credit card debt, how can they in good conscience talk about getting out of debt? But if they understand The Five Foundations from an adult level, they’ll be better able to demonstrate what they look like for the students as they get older.”
We couldn’t agree more.
To all our amazing teachers: Keep walking the talk. Keep pressing on. You’re doing a great job, and we’re proud to serve you.
Every year, thousands of students learn life-changing financial literacy skills through our Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum. Your students can be next! The curriculum simplifies big topics like debt, insurance, taxes, real estate and the global economy. Make sure your students are ready to enter their future with confidence and tackle their finances head on!