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Public School Educator Goes Above and Beyond to Teach Personal Finance to Students

8/23/2019

By Courtney Sipperley

A photo of Lothar Konietzko. Lothar Konietzko is not your average high school teacher. Based in Lansing, Michigan, Konietzko has worked at Everett High School for more than 20 years, and his passion for teaching kids about money is really paying off.

During the 2018-19 school year, Konietzko taught Ramsey Education's Foundations in Personal Finance to more than 170 students through an 18-week economics class. The brainchild of Dave Ramsey—a national best-selling author, radio host and personal finance expert—the program offers a classroom-ready curriculum designed especially for high school students.

To make this program more accessible to teachers across the country, last fall the Jackson Charitable Foundation announced it would sponsor 250 high schools to utilize the Foundations in Personal Finance program. This sponsorship provided more than 20,000 high school students with hands-on lessons about using money in everyday life. Due to the program's tremendous impact, the Foundation has doubled its support for the 2019-20 school year to sponsor 500 high schools.

Konietzko was able to take advantage of the program through this sponsorship and said he is grateful to Ramsey Education & Jackson Charitable Foundation for making the donation of materials to his classroom possible. He is constantly trying to incorporate more personal finance curriculum into his lessons and this curriculum has been a valued addition to his course offerings.

"My philosophy of teaching economics is centered on four principles: the basics of economics, entrepreneurship, the world of work and labor and personal finance," he said. "I try to emphasize personal finance as I find it to be the most vital part of the course. Many states require a personal finance course before they graduate. Over the years, I have tried to redesign my curriculum and lessons to better serve students; teaching them how to properly manage their money and their financial future."

Once Konietzko found out the Ramsey materials were available, he couldn’t wait to use them with his students.

"The curriculum offers such wonderful resources in the form of books and DVDs," he said. "My students love Dave's personality and delivery in the videos, and the combination of the audiovisual and text book exercises is really helpful."

“My students love Dave's personality and delivery in the videos, and the combination of the audiovisual and text book exercises is really helpful.”

According to Konietzko, a big part of the curriculum's appeal is the realistic application of the material. Ramsey is a straight shooter who really drives home his points, making the personal finance lessons easy to understand.

"When my students actually see the concepts play out in real life—whether at home, school or with their friends—everything they're learning really starts to resonate," he said.

Foundations in Personal Finance explores several different topics, including budgeting, student loans, the importance of an emergency fund, avoiding debt, and the differences between stocks and mutual funds, as well as wants versus needs. According to Konietzko, the wants vs. needs section is critical, as most of the other lessons relate back to this concept.

In addition to teaching Ramsey's program, Konietzko conducts a stock trading activity with his students in which everyone must pick five stocks off the DOW and track them for 18 weeks. The participants are given a budget of $5,000 to spend on the five companies.

"The point of the lesson is to teach the kids that the stock market can be volatile, and investing should be viewed as a long-term thing," he said. "We then discuss how much more productive mutual funds (versus individual stocks) can be for a beginning investor, since they're less risky and more diversified. They learn the same thing from Dave, in that it's a lot smarter to not put all your eggs in one basket."

Like Konietzko, the Jackson Charitable Foundation is committed to helping more young people understand how money works so they can gain the confidence to make better financial decisions. As the Foundation does its part to make the programming available for educators and families to teach these life-changing skills to students, it's just as important for educators like Konietzko to have a willingness to teach these impactful topics.

"Money needs to be a conversation we can all have without anyone getting upset," he said. "One of the most rewarding parts of teaching personal finance is when a student goes home and actually has a conversation with their parents about what he or she has learned. I like to remind my students that they could be the finance experts in their household, and it will always benefit them and their families to learn about how to be smart with money and build their personal finance skills."

Konietzko continues to receive great feedback about the program, and most of his students have rated it a four or five on a five-point scale.

"At the beginning of the course, I told my students they could either keep their textbooks or return them at the end of the school year. I was so happy to find out that all but two students chose to keep them!"

Thanks to teachers like Lothar Konietzko, a difference is being made in the world of personal finance—especially for those who have the most time to prepare for their financial futures.

Photo of Courtney Sipperley
Courtney Sipperley
Manager, Media Relations, Jackson

Courtney Sipperley has more than a decade of corporate and crisis communications experience in the financial services industry. She is a proud Michigan State University Spartan, having studied Advertising and Public Relations. Courtney can be contacted at courtney.sipperley@jackson.com.

The Jackson Charitable Foundation is the charitable-giving arm of Jackson National Life Insurance Company®. The Foundation focuses on work that is national in scope. Local community requests to strengthen families and increase economic opportunities in Lansing, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; and Nashville, Tennessee can be directed to Jackson's Corporate Philanthropy team.