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H&R Block Dollars & Sense is delighted to welcome Brian Page to the team as our personal finance adviser. Brian is a teacher at Ohio’s Reading High School, where he’s taught personal finance to teenagers for more than 10 years. His efforts and commitment to teen financial literacy and preparation have taken him far beyond the classroom, earning honors including National Educator of the Year (Milken Foundation and Ohio Department of Education), the William A Forbes award from the Council for Economic Education and Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation and being lauded by CNN Money as a “Money Hero.”
Beyond his celebrated work at Reading High School, Brian also has worked in collaboration with the National Disability Institute to write financial literacy coursework for special education students. He was also a member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability Working Group and the Ohio Department of Education Financial Literacy Standards Writing Team. He was one of the first teachers to bring the H&R Block Budget Challenge’s learning-by-doing approach to the classroom.
To help you get to know Brian, who will be contributing to our blog throughout the H&R Block Budget Challenge inaugural year, we asked him a few questions.
H&R Block Dollars & Sense: Can you tell us a little about students’ attitudes toward personal finance education? Are they interested?
Brian Page: Students recognize financial literacy skills are necessary for their adult lives, and many skills are necessary for their current lives. They are definitely most interested in the topics that help them with the financial choices they make in their lives right now.
HRBDS: Was your school supportive of your desire to bring financial literacy into the classroom?
BP: Personal Finance was offered as an elective when I began to teach. It started as one class of roughly ten students, but enrollment grew quickly. Our school board eventually mandated my semester-long course in personal finance as a graduation requirement. This decision was one of many made by the Reading school board and administration that demonstrated full support for financial education. I am lucky to teach in the Reading Community City School District.
HRBDS: What inspires you to teach teens about finance?
BP: It’s personal for me. Much of my inspiration comes from my upbringing. I was fortunate to be raised in a family that made financial management a priority, and it carried us through some difficult times. You can read more about that on my personal blog, here. My family’s experiences have given me a real passion for teaching finance, which isn’t taught nearly enough. Every kid deserves a financial education, and adults must shoulder the responsibility of creating the varying pathways necessary to providing it.
HRBDS: What do you think the biggest challenges are for today’s teens in terms of learning to manage money?
BP: Of the 90-plus days I can teach my students each semester, I would prefer to spend 80 of them on field trips, teaching financial literacy skills directly through real world experiences and learning opportunities. So, my challenge is to find as many ways as I can to make my classroom and lessons resemble the real world. That is why I’ve always been such a passionate supporter of the H&R Block Budget Challenge. No other program better simulates the money management experiences teens will face in their adult lives. It’s a road test for personal finance that creates real-world-ready financial literacy skills for students.
HRBDS: If a teacher is interested in bringing personal finance curriculum to their school but doesn’t know where to start, how do you suggest they go about it?
BP: Start with the Jump$tart Clearinghouse, where there are hundreds of resources to choose from. The search feature allows you to customize the search to find curriculum suitable for your unique needs.
HRBDS: Any tips for approaching their schools’ leadership with the idea?
BP: I believe the best way to advocate for financial literacy is to use evidence. Jump$tart, the Council for Economic Education and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center are full of evidence-based resources.
HRBDS: Is there anything parents can do to help get personal finance education into schools?
BP: Whether it is a teacher or parent, I believe the best way to advocate for financial literacy is to use evidence. Like I said, Jump$tart, the Council for Economic Education and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center are a good place to start. Parents can also help by recognizing that in a 21st century world full of complicated and consequential financial decisions, a devoted semester-long course in personal finance is essential to survival — and demanding that personal finance be taught in their children’s schools.
HRBDS: In a perfect world, in your opinion, when/at what age would students receive personal finance education, and from whom?
BP: Financial education should be ongoing and come from three areas – parents, schools, and employers. Financial literacy skills should be integrated beginning in the elementary years through high school, concluding with a capstone course dedicated solely to personal finance, taught by a trained teacher. Along the way, parents should serve as partners in the financial education experience.
HRBDS: What makes you love teaching finance to teens?
BP: Overall, I find satisfaction in each and every moment a student shows me they are taking what they are learning in class and applying it to their daily lives. Many of the students are proud that they have opened savings accounts, used direct deposits, saved their tax refund or used mobile banking applications. They use strategies learned in class to comparison shop the cost of college and cars with their parents. In one case, when one of my students was asked how my class made a difference in her life in an interview with PBS, she responded that she was using what she was learning in class to help her mother avoid bankruptcy. That meant the world to me.
Please join us in welcoming Brian Page to the H&R Block family.