Educator Spotlight: Don Leibold
It’s Educator Appreciation Month at SecureFutures! We’re taking this opportunity to recognize our educator partners and the passion they bring to equipping teens with financial capability.
Don Leibold, who teaches English at Audubon Technology and Communication High School on Milwaukee’s south side, has partnered with SecureFutures for the past two years, bringing both Money Sense and Money Path into his classroom.
Don says his own lack of financial education growing up is why he recognizes the significance of SecureFutures’ programs in his students’ lives.
“This is my second year having SecureFutures come in. I think it’s really important, because I grew up not knowing a lot about money,” Don said. “I would ask my parents about money, and the response was always be ‘that’s private.’ No one taught me about money and what to do with it.”
Don often sees the same knowledge gap in his students.
“I’m assuming students are in my position, that maybe there’s not always a constructive dialogue around money,” he said. “I think it’s really valuable for our students to learn that and have that opportunity. Buying a house, or paying rent, or creating a budget – I think they need lessons, they need help with that. SecureFutures starts that discussion.”
For Don, the SecureFutures curriculum and tools provide a great starting place for more extensive conversations between him and his students.
“They always have lots of questions,” Don said. “You might start with something mundane, like how to write a check, and it creates a discussion about: what are you really going to do with your money, and what are your real expectations? They start to really think: what should my career be? It gets the gears turning internally.”
Don notes that having volunteers with finance backgrounds is especially useful for students.
“It’s helpful having people come in from credit unions and banks and other financial institutions, people who work with money every day and who are here to talk to kids about credit scores, for example,” said Don. “All of these practical things that adults take for granted – SecureFutures is laying them out in a curriculum that students can understand.”
In Don’s classroom, students are encouraged to build on the foundation laid by SecureFutures volunteers by continuing to talk about financial responsibility with important people in their lives.
“As they go through that planning process for a monthly or weekly budget, you can have discussions with them,” he said. “I share a little bit about how I plan my budget with them, and sometimes I encourage them: ‘maybe talk with your mom or dad, maybe they can give you some insight into how they keep things afloat for your brothers and sisters.'”
This semester, Don had the opportunity to be one of the first teachers to pilot SecureFutures’ new Money Path app, and saw the impact it had on his students’ learning.
“That just took it to the next level,” Don said. “Students could put in actual information about some of their plans. Everything before was theoretical. With Money Path, they could actually put in: I want to go to this college. I want to be a welder, or I want to be a nurse. It connects them to real information outside my classroom.”
As with so much of the work he does with his students, Don thinks the results aren’t always immediately apparent, but that a foundation is being built for the future.
“The fruits of SecureFutures’ labors – we might never see the impact it has, because it might click with them six months out of high school. It’s good to plant that seed of financial literacy.”