Interviewing a Superstar Teacher — Trisha DeBacco

Trisha DeBacco is a financial literacy teacher for the Webster Central school district in Rochester, New York. She has been a loyal user of Budget Challenge since 2015. In that time, she has taught over 400 students across 15+ classes. She was also one of the teachers who piloted the latest version of Budget Challenge in the summer of 2019 as we rolled out our trophy based simulations. She and her fellow teachers at Webster are getting amazing results from the program, creating a generation of financially capable young adults. We asked her for some insight into how she finds student success with our program. Here is our interview with Trisha.

Trisha: I absolutely LOVE the Budget Challenge. When I stumbled upon this amazing resource in the Fall of 2014, I had no idea the impact it would have on my kids and the instant engagement that it would create.

What has been your favorite part of Budget Challenge as a teacher?
My favorite part of the BC as a teacher is seeing the kids become immersed in the Challenge and having them ask such thoughtful questions. I also love the pride they have after successfully completing the Challenge. Hearing a student say, "I earned 6 Trophies, I never thought I would be able to do that," or when they THANK YOU for teaching them real life skills. It makes all the crazy lesson planning well worth the effort, then you know you have made a difference!

What is the biggest challenge as a teacher when using Budget Challenge?
The biggest challenge as a teacher when using the challenge is that there are so many layers to the simulation. Time management — making sure I have enough time to prep kids before the challenge begins. You also need to have enough one on one time when kids needs help. I currently have four classes this semester, each with 25+ students.

What is the biggest challenge for students participating in Budget Challenge?
The biggest challenge for the students is that it can be overwhelming really fast. Students need to pay attention to detail, read, and not be afraid to ask questions. In addition, if you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. Life goes on and the bills keep coming.

Are there any tips you can give to new teachers using Budget Challenge?
If you are a new teacher to the BC, you really have to spend time navigating through it all prior to immersing the kids in it. Enrolling in TEACHER PLAY is a must! It allows you to anticipate student questions and perhaps visually show them how you did something via the Dell Board or Smart Board.

How have your students responded to Budget Challenge?
Here are some student testimonials:

1. The challenge was a fun and valuable experience. It was different than anything else a class has offered. There was a true connection to learning personal finance skills

2. Before the challenge I knew next to nothing about paying bills, being on a budget, and how to manage money. Now I know about all of those things and feel more confident about the real world and going off to college.

3. I learned how much of a responsibility managing your own finances can be. You cannot set aside this task until you have time...you need paying bills and managing your money/credit a top priority!

4. This is a realistic simulation in which you need to make critical decisions in order to maintain a healthy financial future.

5. While the Challenge was a Challenge, it has helped prepare me for my future financial responsibilities.

6. The Budget Challenge helped me realize that managing money isn't easy—BUT this was an interactive and fun way that helped us learned REAL WORLD money management skills

Do you have a Budget Challenge story that is especially memorable?
My most memorable moments from the Budget Challenge (Not in any particular order)

1. Having a student win $20,000 Scholarship in the Fall of 2015 (sponsored simulation)

2. Winning a classroom Grant ($5,000) (sponsored simulation) that I now use as a Financial Literacy Award ($500) for a graduating senior

3. Seeing the excitement that the Challenge creates in learning REAL WORLD Skills

4. Having a student come to class and tell me they were teaching their mom/dad about mobile deposits and/or reconciling their checking account.

5. Speaking with parents (outside of school) and hearing how they have mature conversations at home about financial topics we are covering in the class and how grateful they are that we have students participate in Budget Challenge.

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