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loggie-blog

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Ms. Kathryn Loggie

Teachers often work double-duty to make sure teens are well-equipped with the knowledge they need to succeed. One example is Paxon School for Advanced Studies teacher Kathryn Loggie.

In addition to teaching grades 9-12 journalism and computer science, Loggie is the supervisor for an after school club called LifeSmarts, where students learn about life skills, including finance. It was in this class that Loggie introduced her students to the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Because of her efforts three students walked away with $20,000 scholarships and Loggie won a classroom grant! See what she had to say about the program.

Do you think the students in your community are well-versed in money management?

Definitely not. Teens today need to know about credit, credit cards and how easy it is to get into debt. Students preparing for college need to know about student loans, how they’re going to pay them back, and the implications of not paying them back.

How did you find out about the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I got an email last year about it that sounded intriguing. Finance is a subject we’ve been covering in the LifeSmarts club for a number of years. We thought we’d give it a try and we did OK the first year. I was disappointed none of my students last year won scholarships, but we made up for it this year!

How did your students enjoy the simulation?

They really enjoyed it. They liked having that persona in the simulation where they had to guess what they were going to do and spend their money on. A lot of students would say, “Can you believe my person spent that much on entertainment?!”

Have you found that your students have more financial-related conversations after taking the Budget Challenge?

Absolutely. The students can conduct an intelligent conversation on personal finance with anyone now. Sometimes we have guest speakers come in and I tell them that the students really understand it at a high level and don’t need to talk down to them.

As a teacher, what did you enjoy about the simulation?

The quizzes were great. Some of them were very difficult, but we worked through the quizzes and the students really learned from them.

How did you react when you found out your class had multiple winners?

I had students who participated both years, but as far as getting to the top, I don’t know if we even thought that was possible given the number of students who participated in the Budget Challenge. We were so pleasantly surprised when we had three individual scholarship winners!

Would you recommend the Budget Challenge to other teachers? Why?

Just look at the benefits in terms of the scholarships and grant money—that alone is enough to participate. We’ve gotten a lot of publicity at the district level about this too. I’ve even gotten emails from parents asking how they can get their son or daughter involved. It’s well worthwhile!

What do you plan to use the grant money on?

I would like to take the students on field trips, like to the Jacksonville branch of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. I’ll probably also use it to buy additional resource materials for the students.

Matt Tetreau

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Matt Tetreau

Hard work and long-term planning pay off when taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Don’t believe us? Just ask Matt Tetreau from St. Clair High School in Michigan who won a $20,000 scholarship. We spoke with him to learn more about how he was so successful!

Growing up, did you see a need for financial literacy and education among your classmates?

I really think that it’s valuable information, especially since next year many of us will have student loans. Many kids my age don’t really know too much about student loans or living on their own. That’s what inspired me to take Mrs. Volz’s class where we took the Budget Challenge.

Where did your previous financial education come from? Did you take any classes prior to Mrs. Volz’s?

No I didn’t. I didn’t ever really talk to my parents about money either. I’m not much of a spender. During the simulation, I learned almost everything I know though through the class or on my own.

Do you think that the simulation taught you the real world money skills that you need to be successful?

Absolutely. I feel like I can budget on my own now, whereas before I don’t know if I would have been able to manage.

What do you think was the recipe to your success that helped you win the scholarship?

I checked the Budget Challenge every day and made sure that my budget was balanced. I tried a bunch of different strategies and tried to find the strategy that would save me the most money on my budget.

How often did you tweak your budget throughout the simulation?

In the beginning, I planned it all out by how I thought it’d work out — but that didn’t work because unexpected things came up in the Budget Challenge where I had to make refinements. We had one unexpected event to deal with, and our credit card expenses were pretty unpredictable at times. We didn’t know how much we’d get charged for the event, so we had to account for that as well.

Did you work together with your classmates through the simulation?

I actually did work with some. It was really valuable working together and bouncing ideas off each other. Some of my classmates proposed strategies that I didn’t initially think of — and I came up with ways to play that helped others. I think that sharing of ideas among a few of my classmates was part of my success.

What did your parents think when you told them you were taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I told them about the simulation, and they were pretty into it as well. They were asking me what was going on and how I was doing.

How has winning this scholarship changed your post-graduation plans?

I always planned on going to college, but I didn’t plan how I would pay for it. So the scholarship definitely helps.

Where do you plan on going to college and using your scholarship?

I plan on going to Michigan or Grand Valley State and studying computer science. I want to probably be a computer programmer or similar type of job.

Would you recommend this simulation to other students? Why?

Going into this, I didn’t know much at all about budgeting. I learned so much information that will help me throughout my life. I honestly think that every high school student should participate in something like that or at least take a class related to it.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

(Photo provided by Amanda Volz)

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Ms. Amanda Volz

St. Clair High School teacher Amanda Volz knows a thing or two about what it takes to lead a class of money management masters. Not only did her class last year include H&R Block Budget Challenge grand prize winner Sean Lawrence, six of her students this year won scholarships, along with a $5,000 classroom grant. We caught up with her to find out how she keeps her students motivated in the program and why she’d recommend it to others.

You’ve had two straight years with high-performing students involved in the program. What’s your secret?

I’m fortunate enough to teach the inclusive personal finance class. My financial management class is year-long and we cover all the personal finance topics, so we talk about budgeting, credit, how to deal with mortgages, etc. So, this is content that I purposely tie to the simulation. My students are graded on the quizzes they take, and their participation is recorded so that’s definitely a positive for me that I’m teaching those exact concepts in my class.

How did you include the simulation in your curriculum?

This year I taught it as more of project-based learning format. Last year I did it as more of a culminating project using the concepts I teach. The Budget Challenge was a great support to the curriculum I already teach, and students were learning as they improved. My students were constantly asking questions as they progressed.

What were your students’ reactions when you told them they’d be participating in the program?

They were very into it and started making their budgets and talking to their parents. They knew at the beginning they had to make some really good decisions to hopefully win the scholarship. I know that 100 percent of my class found value in the simulation even though some of them may not have been into it as much as the other students in the Budget Challenge.

How did you motivate your students to participate in the simulation?

All of my kids that won scholarships this year were very engaged, so they didn’t get lazy at any point and used the budgeting tools that were provided by the Budget Challenge. They were strategic and worked together, bouncing ideas off each other, and reminding each other of certain things. I think having a grand-prize winner last year was a huge motivator for my classes this year to see that winning is a possibility for them. One of the ways I introduced the simulation this year was by showing footage of last year and how Sean Lawrence went on to win and I think that was really effective.

Did you get any feedback from your students’ parents?

I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from parents about how their son or daughter was really talking about these concepts at home with them. I think the Budget Challenge was increasing a lot of dialogue at home and a lot of good comments from parents about making personal finance fun. This program is game-based so it makes the process fun.

What did you find most rewarding when including the H&R Block Budget Challenge in your teaching?
I really like that students are taking exactly what they’re learning in my class and the simulation and applying it to their daily lives. I think that’s a huge reward. There’s never any question of “When am I ever going to use this?”

What’s your stance on financial courses in high schools? Do you think they should be required?

Most definitely. I think finance is a major part of everyone’s lives. These are household skills that help our economy. One of the most rewarding parts of teaching this is how kids see the value in all this information that they’re learning.

Would you recommend this program to other teachers?

I definitely recommend the program. I have not found another program that better simulates the money management concept. I think it’s great that everything happens in real time, too. It’s very hands-on and relevant. The game-based aspect of it makes it fun for the students and the scholarship money — that’s a life-changing amount of money for someone to win. It’s also available at no cost to teachers.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

SherryBrownwithStudentCROP

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Mrs. Sherry Brown (Part 1)

Sherry Brown, a 12th grade economics and government teacher in Guntersville, Ala., and her students won a total of $227,500 in prizes through the H&R Block Budget Challenge last year. Guntersville High School, where Brown teaches, won two grants, and 11 of the students each won $20,000 scholarships. We caught up with Sherry to learn more about her experience with the simulation.

Do you see a specific need for financial literacy in your area of Guntersville, Ala.?

Absolutely. Forty percent of the students in Guntersville schools qualify for free and reduced lunch based off of their household’s income. There are a large amount of students whose living conditions are less than average. Anything I can do to help better these students to get out their current conditions is always a goal of mine.

Would you say your students were financially literate before starting the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

Not really. The majority was not. I’ve had some financially responsible students in the past that helped their household pay some of the bills. Some of the students have jobs, and of the ones that do, they put their paychecks into their accounts and probably go spend it the next day without taking a look at their paystub. Before taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge, they didn’t know how to pay a bill or what the bills mean or interest rates mean or how much is taken out of their check for taxes.

How did you find out about the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

My principal received an email about the program and thought it was pretty cool. She then forwarded the e-mail to me and the more I looked into it, the more I also thought that it was awesome. Some of our kids learn about personal finance in the ninth grade, but they don’t have jobs at that point and the lessons don’t stick as much as they could. I think 12th grade is a great time to start learning about personal finance.

How did your students react when you told them they’d be participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

They were pretty skeptical at first. They wanted to know “What are the actual chances of us winning $20,000?” And I told them they’ve got the same chance as anyone else because it’s a competition. I told them they could do what they’re supposed to do and run with it and they’ve got just as much a chance as anyone out there, no matter how many people they’re competing against.

How did your students react when you told them that the H&R Block Budget Challenge was game?

Making it competitive really, really helped tremendously because these kids wanted to beat their classmates! They wanted to win. Even though they knew maybe we wouldn’t get in the top classroom, it wasn’t as much “We want to get in the top 10” as much as they wanted to beat their classmates and say “We’re ahead of you! We’re beating you!” 

Check back in on Thursday for the second part of our interview with Sherry Brown, where she tells us what her classroom is using the grant money on.

(*Responses were edited for clarity)