To recognize Financial Literacy Month, we spoke with Ms. Christine Poczik, second-grade teacher at Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School. With more than 12 years teaching in Chicago Public Schools, Ms. Poczik has been working with Climb to Safety’s financial literacy program since 2015.
What surprises you most about how your students respond to and retain these financial concepts?
I would have never thought the kids could handle these topics, but my students are very comfortable talking about these financial subjects and using the vocabulary. At this point in the year, they have a deep understanding of the topics.
What has been your favorite lesson so far?
In our classes, we cover opportunity costs, wants and needs. I love the lesson where they choose which items are important to them when planning a vacation. Students tend to name the things you’d see in a brochure, such as big hotel rooms, pools, buffets and activities. They never think about having to sit in the middle seat on the plane. Then, we talk about the essentials that adults take into consideration (window seat!) as compared to what they listed as priorities.
How do your students feel about saving?
They view saving as necessary. We are always talking about what happens when people don't save (like in the stories we read). They know saving for the future is the right thing to do. But do they have the willpower to do it?
What goes into a discussion of needs versus wants and saving versus spending with students at this grade level?
I think most kids are used to getting what they want when they want it. That said, they know there needs to be a balance, and with that balance comes compromise and choices. They learn this through Climb to Safety’s activities and projects.
I say all the time that we all need to listen to the advice from these lessons and make better choices. It’s hard for everyone to save and not just spend, me included!
Do the students talk about what they want to do when they grow up?
They want to be teachers, engineers and firefighters. Because they love coding and Minecraft, many students say they want jobs in technology.
You live in Roscoe Village close to Bell School. Does that bring you closer to your students?
Yes! I live in the neighborhood, so the kids see me outside walking with my dog, Oliver. Last year on Halloween, Oliver and I were on the porch handing out candy. The kids found my house and stopped by to trick or treat. They LOVED seeing him! I have a feeling they will be back again this year.
On a personal level, what makes this program special to you?
This is my 12th year teaching in Chicago, and I love what I do every day. Climb to Safety is a great addition to our classroom because we can so easily connect all subject areas to these financial topics. This is real life. Educating students in this area can only help them succeed.
Photographs courtesy of Christine Poczik
About Climb to Safety
Climb to Safety is devoted to teaching financial literacy to elementary school students. Founded by Forum advisor Michelle Weindruch, CFP®, Climb to Safety endeavors to bridge the financial knowledge gap and prepare students for many of the complex financial issues they will encounter as adults.
Every class that participates in Climb to Safety’s financial literacy program establishes its own 529 College Savings Account through donated funds. Classroom accounts are divided into individual 529 accounts for each participating student upon graduation.
For more information, visit climbtosafety.org/.
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