Teacher Spotlight — David Tonnis

Social Studies teacher, David Tonnis with St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio, has used Budget Challenge for over seven years. David has successfully guided his students through all of the updates and advancements made to Budget Challenge.

You have been a long-time user of Budget Challenge. How have the upgrades within the program enhanced your classroom?

Each and every addition to the Budget Simulation has been extremely helpful. The real-world process of doing vendor selections, tracking cash-flow, and budgeting and then actually having the opportunity to go through the process of paying those bills and reconciling your budget has, of course, always been such a rewarding experience for our students. It is the reason why we have all of our students participate every year. The recent addition of the Trophies which incentivizes students to go beyond budgeting and bill paying to practice personal financial best practices has added so much more to the program and are great conversation starters to have with students as we prepare them to not only begin to take ownership over their personal financial future, but to begin to set up a solid foundation of sound personal financial choices. I am very much looking forward to implementing the Plus Investing program in future simulations to take these lessons that one extra step further.

In what types of settings have you used Budget Challenge? i.e., distance learning, in person, summer school, hybrid

I typically have used Budget Challenge in the traditional classroom setting. At our school we incorporate the simulation into our Economics course and highlight what they are learning when covering topics in personal financial literacy. I have also used Budget Challenge in more asynchronous settings as well including when distance learning and as a summer project for AP Economics students. In those cases students completed the simulation in a very independent way with some support from me as a teacher through online office hours in addition to support they received from the online Help Desk.

How have your students responded to Budget Challenge in different settings?

Because Budget Challenge is often my students first time really thinking through all of the responsibilities of personal finance as an adult, I feel as though all my students--regardless of how they are completing the simulation-- initially feel some level of anxiety. Some students who are completing the simulation more independently in hybrid and all online formats initially might experience some additional anxiety as they are working more independently on their own with less face-to-face interaction with an instructor. However, once students see the ease of navigating the Budget Challenge website and uncover the instructional materials woven within the simulation such as the videos and Help Desk, they all have expressed more confidence in their ability to consolidate information, track cash flow, and budget regardless of what format they are completing the simulation. As the simulation unfolds and nears its completion, all students-- and their parents- express appreciation for learning personal finance skills by "doing" and feel more prepared for the future.

What is your favorite Budget Challenge feature?

While I find all of the aspects of the Budget Challenge simulation to be useful for student instruction, I am a personal fan of the vendor selection process. I always pair it with having students complete their cash-flow and budgeting tool and find it to be a useful way to help model for students that aspect of personal finances that we all must go through, but probably causes a lot of stress and anxiety: reading through all the details and "fine print" of vendor contracts and setting up our accounts with them. Sifting through that information, new vocabulary, and figuring out how to juggle all your finances and goals can be stressful for students (and adults alike), but going through that process is such a good lesson for preparing for adulthood and managing your personal finances. Doing so in a lower- stakes simulation with imaginary money helps to not only prepare students for doing similar processes as adults, but also helps them feel more confident in making such personal financial decisions.

Do you feel your students’ communication with the Help Desk simulates real world experience?

Yes! The ability for students to learn to professionally communicate with vendors is a real asset to the program. It adds to the experience for students to experience this aspect of being an adult and helps them learn how to clearly and professionally communicate. Like so many other aspects of the Budget Challenge simulation, the practice of doing so helps them to be "real world ready" and to help lessen anxiety they may feel when they need to be in communication with real vendors later in life.