Teachers Focus on Financial Literacy at Champlain College

Thirty-two teachers from across Vermont have been crunching numbers and learning about how to teach personal financial lessons in the classroom. The five-day professional development opportunity at Champlain College held June 25-29 was designed to help Vermont middle school and high school teachers from a range of subjects gain competencies in teaching personal finance topics, such as credit, budgeting and investing.

Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy and Merchants Bank have sponsored two Vermont Teachers Financial Literacy Summer Institutes held in 2011 and 2012. Participating teachers, representing 34 percent of all the Supervisory Unions in Vermont, had the opportunity to experience this successful financial literacy curriculum. In aggregate, 51 percent (or 30 of 59) of all the Supervisory Unions in Vermont have attended this institute. In 2011, Vermont is the third state to participate in this pilot program; initially launched in Illinois with Chicago Public Schools followed by a round with Colorado teachers.

The Summer Institute used a high quality curriculum consolidating the best in financial literacy education as compiled by the Jump$tart Coalition, the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), the Council for Economic Education (CEE), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Family Economics and Financial Education (FEFE), Junior Achievement (JA), the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

"We are extremely proud to be a part of the group that is bringing this teacher-training program to Vermont," says Ted Beck, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education. "Teachers all across the country have expressed a desire to usher money management topics into their classrooms. The event this summer will provide an opportunity to dramatically affect the quality of K-12 financial education by preparing Vermont teachers with the subject matter expertise they need."

Merchants Bank has extended a $125,000 grant to fund the institute over three years with the aim of preparing secondary school educators to teach students how to budget, handle credit cards, plan for the future, and understand retirement before they graduate from high school. Participants at the summer program will earn three continuing education graduate credits and receive a collegiate level personal finance textbook and other resources to help them in the classroom.

Thomas S. Leavitt, executive vice president for Merchants Bank in Burlington, said the program would enable more than 100 secondary and high school teachers from at least 75 percent of Vermont Supervisory Unions to participate. "Merchants Bank is pleased to be in a position to help Vermonters tackle a subject that is vital to personal independence," added Leavitt. The funding has covered two of three summer institutes to be held at Champlain College through 2013.

John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, said the partnership with Merchants Bank is a key element in the College's overall initiative designed to promote financial literacy skills to students, teachers and adults on a local, state and national level.

"The teaching of personal finance is often an afterthought in schools because it is not a subject tested under the No Child Left Behind law. However, according to Jump$tart -- a Washington D.C.-based coalition of organizations interested in advancing financial literacy among students in pre-kindergarten through college -- high school seniors, on average, answered only 48 percent of personal finance questions correctly. Most high school and middle school students in Vermont are not financially literate and are rarely being taught key personal finance topics in the classroom. We hope the work of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College and the Summer Institute sponsored by Merchants Bank will help change all that," Pelletier explained.

Topics covered included: financial responsibility and decision making; income and careers; planning and money management; credit and debt; risk management and insurance; savings and investing; and curriculum tools that can be used in the classroom, including games to promote financial literacy.

During the 45-hour program, teachers developed knowledge of financial literacy topics through interactive and collaborative training, exercises and group projects; used information on free curriculum available for high school and middle school students on personal finance and learn how to access the materials; discussed classroom strategies to create a vital, engaging and fun learning atmosphere; and created a detailed plan for bringing personal finance training into the classroom in the next year.

Teachers in the program were asked to participate in pre- and post-testing of themselves and their students on financial literacy topics and will be encouraged to have their students participate in the annual National Financial Literacy Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Education. Teachers who graduated from the program also will be asked to share best practices with the Center for Financial Literacy and their fellow teachers around the state.

"Teachers who complete the training will have the confidence, skills and curriculum tools to successfully train their students in handling their money wisely," said Pelletier.

For more information about the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College and the Vermont Teachers Financial Literacy Summer Institute, email cfl@champlain.edu, call (802) 860-2744 or visit www.champlain.edu.

ABOUT MERCHANTS BANK:

Merchants Bank is Vermont's only independent statewide community bank. Its continuing mission is to provide Vermonters with a statewide community bank that combines a strong technology platform with a genuine appreciation for local markets. Merchants Bank delivers this commitment through a branch-based system that includes: 34 community bank offices and 42 ATMs throughout Vermont; local branch presidents and personal bankers dedicated to high-quality customer service. It employs approximately 300 full-time employees and 40 part-time employees. Merchants Bank was organized in 1849, and took a national charter in 1865, becoming The Merchants National Bank of Burlington, Vermont. The present name was adopted on September 6, 1974, when the Bank converted from a national bank to a state-chartered bank. Merchants' stock is traded on the NASDAQ National Market system under the symbol MBVT.


Since 1878, Champlain College has provided career-focused education to students from its hilltop campus in Burlington, Vt. Champlain's distinctive educational approach embodies the notion that true learning only occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain offers traditional undergraduate and online undergraduate courses, along with online certificate and degree programs and 11 master's degree programs. Champlain offers study abroad programs at its campuses in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 378 Colleges: 2014 Edition. Champlain was named a "Top-Up-and-Coming School" by U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges and is ranked in the top tier of 2014 Regional Colleges in the North. For more information, visit www.champlain.edu


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