Maine’s Financial Education Heroes

May 01, 2024
Maine’s Financial Education Heroes

The following sounds like one big, loud, and proud advertisement for Maine Jump$tart and the educators who are bringing personal finance education to Maine students.

It is.

They are among Maine’s many financial education champions and heroes, and they are making a difference.

Way Back to May 7, 2010 – Augusta Civic Center

This day marked THE turning point for me as a personal finance teacher. It was also a big day for The Maine Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

It was the group’s first Annual Fostering Financial Education in Maine Schools Conference, and it inspired and empowered me to take my efforts in teaching personal finance to another level. Fast forward 15 years to May 17, 2024, and Maine Jump$tart will be putting on the 15th iteration of this annual event. Along the way, these trainings have reached hundreds of Maine teachers and community educators who have taught and influenced thousands of Maine students.

Jump$tart Me Up

Prior to this event, I had already converted two math electives at my school into a fall offering called, “Business and Finance”, and a spring course, “Personal Finance”. I covered key economics topics and banking in the fall; balancing checkbooks, insurance, credit score, etc. in the spring. Somewhere around eight to ten seniors (out of a class of 60) were taking the elective. (Enrollment would triple in just a few years.)

Then, at the May 7th event in 2010, this happened:

  • I heard former Governor Angus King speak about the importance of financial education.
  • I learned about SIFMA’s Stock Market Game.
  • I met folks from The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • I learned about and eventually attended a unique teacher training event at The New York Stock Exchange.
  • I spoke with other educators from around Maine and heard about what they were doing in the classroom.

I drank from the fire hose, and it was wonderfully overwhelming!

I went back to the classroom and for the rest of the summer, I chipped away at revamping my courses. Here is just a sample of what I added for the following school year:

  • The Stock Market Game
  • A several-week-long budgeting spreadsheet exercise
  • A unit on credit score
  • Increased focus on how the Federal Reserve’s role in the banking system affects consumers
  • Games, web tools, and lesson plans
  • I worked with students to start a Finance Club and to form a team for the Boston Federal

And that was all just from the first year of attending the conference. I’ve attended almost every conference since, helped to plan and deliver a few, and along the way, I learned about FAME. And yes, that has turned out to be a big deal for me.

The Maine Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy was founded in 2008 as an affiliate of the National Jump$tart Coalition, with a mission “to improve the financial knowledge of Maine citizens, with a special focus on pre-K through college-aged students, including adult learners.”

4 Caitlyn Roy J
Caitlyn Roy, 5th grade teacher at Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School in Machias and Maine Jump$tart’s 2021-2022 Financial Educator of the Year

Since its founding, Maine Jump$tart has delivered more than 20 training events for teachers and other professionals working in areas connected to community financial well-being including guidance counselors, social workers, financial aid officers, and school administrators. Another key initiative from Maine Jump$tart has been the Financial Educator of the Year Award, first awarded in 2012. Thanks to many sponsors and volunteers, all these events have been provided at no cost for Maine teachers.

Last month I introduced this blog with the fact that Maine students are not required to take a personal finance course to graduate high school. I also mentioned that despite that truth, personal finance education is happening in Maine, and a significant amount of it has been influenced, inspired, and even created thanks to the outreach of Maine Jump$tart and every conference attendee since 2009.

They are doing this even when the state doesn’t require it, even when it’s hard for schools to find time in the curriculum. They are doing this mostly because they believe in it and because their students and their families tell them it matters.

Maine Jump$tart permanently and positively changed my personal finance teaching at one event in 2010, and in the years since I have tried to pass on that gift by serving on the board, delivering presentations, and listening to what others are doing in their classrooms.

It is indeed a coalition — one made of financial education heroes. Join us for this year’s event and take your program or your vision for a program to the next level.

P.S. Maine Jump$tart was awarded State Coalition of the Year by National Jump$tart for 2023. It is the SECOND time Maine has earned the honor with the other coming in 2013. Not too shabby.