BY JOHN THOMPSON, Johnson City Press
ELIZABETHTON — It isn’t often that a fifth-grade teacher or an elementary school principal meets with Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell. It is even less often that a teacher and principal get to accept an award at the same time the governor receives an award.
That happened last week in Nashville when East Side Elementary School Principal Travis Hurley and East Side fifth-grade teacher Christy Malone traveled to the state Capitol in Nashville to attend an event sponsored by the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission to celebrate the impact of financial education in the state and honor the key supporters of the educational effort.
There was a lot to celebrate. Under the direction of state treasurer David H Lillard Jr., who is also chairman of the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission, the state has seen students in 148 elementary schools across the state show marked improvement in financial literacy.
The elementary students have completed 28,315 hours of online financial education modules. After using the online learning platform, students have increased their test scores by an average of 36 percent per child.
About the increased literacy, Malone said “I would like to personally thank the members of the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission for providing this training to teachers as well as the program to students at no cost. This curriculum enhances their learning and empowers them to make sound financial decisions for their future."
Lillard and the commission presented the Champion of Financial Literacy Award to Gov. Haslam for his leadership and support.
“This work gets to the heart of so many things we need to be teaching our citizens, including those at early ages,” Haslam said. “The principles behind financial literacy are important for our children to learn and to carry with them in life.”
The Commission also presented the 2018 Leadership Award to a school from each Grand Division for their efforts to advance financial literacy education.
The recipients were:
• East Tennessee — East Side Elementary in Elizabethton.
• Middle Tennessee — Thomas Magnet School in Shelbyville.
• West Tennessee — Delano Optional School in Memphis.
The award to the school was especially meaningful to Malone. She not only teaches fifth grade at the school, she is also vice chairman of the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission.
“I have worked with the commission for several years now and it is an honor to be recognized.” Malone said. “What we have accomplished together has made such a difference in the lives of the students as well as their families.
“It has opened the door for conversations about saving, making smart decisions about spending, and college planning. My goal is to bring financial literacy into the schools at an early age so that our students can get a head start in applying these concepts and establishing a deeper understanding about money.
“I hope to inspire other teachers to implement financial literacy in the classroom. If we can simply take a small portion of this curriculum and integrate into our standards, we could potentially see tremendous growth in our students.”
Malone went on to thank the members of the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission “for providing this training to teachers as well as the program to students at no cost. This curriculum enhances their learning and empowers them to make sound financial decisions for their future."
Hurley said because of this program, his students are able to discern needs from wants, and they’re talking about saving for college and the role of grades and ACT scores in earning scholarships.
“We are grateful that the commission is willing to help students see that financial literacy is important for their futures, and it starts now,” said Hurley. “It’s huge that they recognize this need and they’re willing to put forth the effort to show kids that college and successful careers are attainable goals, and they can begin planning for them now."