In early November, Long Trail School math teacher Michele Farkas packed her bags and headed for Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. After waiting for more than a year to utilize the Dorothy Peirce Faculty Award for which she was selected by her peers in 2014, Farkas was on her way to the Jump$tart Coalition National Educator Conference. This event is dedicated to personal finance education in the classroom. This conference provides PreK-12 educators with financial education resources, personal and professional development, and general support for financial education. With over 300 participants from 44 US states as well as other countries, this gathering allowed Farkas to interact with a wide range of colleagues.
Financial literacy is just one of Farkas’ teaching passions; she finds it so important as students emerge into the world of higher education expenses and independent costs like transportation, housing and budgeting. Friday night’s keynote speaker was none other than Colin Ryan, the financial literacy comedian whom Farkas brought to Long Trail last year as a way to inform the community about finances. Long Trail offers a yearlong course to students in grades 10-12 exploring the skills needed in their post-high school world. Community members visit the class and present their areas of expertise which include banking, human resources and applying for a job, investing, and insurance. Berkshire Bank employees visit the school to review bank services with the class. Last year, the Bank generously provided the funds for Colin Ryan’s visit with the school community.
Farkas notes, “This conference puts teachers in tune with cutting edge resources, which makes attendance so valuable.” Like most conferences, there were breakout workshop sessions in addition to daily keynote events. Farkas took workshops on investing, buying vs. leasing a car, and Social Security. Sunday’s final keynote presentation really made the audience think. Futurist John B. Mahaffie offered a view of future classrooms and the world of education. “In the future, according to Mahaffie, kids will be interacting, exploring, learning and creating in a room with a teacher acting as a mentor. Experiential learning will be encouraged. Full-group instruction will be minimized in favor of individualized-pace learning,” Farkas shared. “The need to prepare students and teachers for this model of learning is clear.” The Long Trail community will certainly benefit from Farkas’ studies of financial literacy as the year progresses.