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Dan Winkeler HS Teacher in Imperial, MO Interview

Welcome to the fifth episode of The High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters. This fifth episode of the podcast features an interview with Dan Winkeler, a teacher at Seckman High School in Imperial, Missouri. See below for a transcript of the interview.

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The High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters is designed to interview teachers about how they got started teaching, tips and tricks for teaching business, marketing, and personal finance to high school students, and how teachers use Virtual Business simulations in their classrooms.

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If you’re a high school business, marketing, or personal finance teacher, we’d love to interview you for the podcast. Please send us an email at

Transcript of Episode 5 of the High School Business and Personal Finance Teachers Podcast

Host: Welcome to the fifth episode of the high school business and personal finance teachers podcast Stay tuned for our interview with Dan Winkeler, a teacher at Seckman High School in Imperial Missouri.

Stay tuned for the interview.

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Welcome back to the High School Business and Personal Finance Teachers podcast sponsored by Knowledge Matters. This is the podcast where we talk to high school business, personal finance, and marketing teachers about how they got started teaching and tips and tricks they have for teaching business and personal finance to high school students. I want to welcome our latest guest Dan Winkeler, a teacher at Seckman High School in Imperial Missouri. Dan welcome to the podcast.

Dan: Well thanks for having me Jeff.

Host: What classes do you currently teach.

Dan: Currently this past school year, I taught a couple sections of computer applications. Several sections of personal finance. And then we just instituted an AP economics class this past year.

Host: How did you first get into teaching?

Dan: I actually got into teaching compliments of my high school math teacher. Believe it or not they went through and he was actually there for me before school. You know I needed some help with some math and he stopped what he was doing, responding to emails and all that sort of stuff that teachers do in the morning, and set some time aside to where he could actually help me understand the concepts from the previous day on the homework. That’s just kind of what set it off. I really like helping people and I wanted to kind of pay it forward as he was doing for me.

Host: And you decided to pursue a teaching degree?

Dan: Yeah I actually when I graduated high school I decided I wanted to be actually a high school math teacher. Much like he was. And when I got out and had observation hours and different things, I realized I wanted to make a greater impact and I like technology a lot more and still wanted to teach and found the business side of education was going to be where I felt like I could make my greatest impact on students.

Host: Have you always taught personal finance since you started teaching?

Dan: My first two years of teaching I was actually in an elementary school setting where I was dealing with computers and a little bit of cross-curricular with their agenda and math teacher. But over the last four years, this upcoming year will be my fifth year that I’ll have personal finance.

Host: And so what’s a typical school day for you?

Dan: For me it’s huge. I usually have more personal finance classes than anything else especially over the last four or five years. You know in the state of Missouri it is required for all students to graduate when they graduate in order for them to graduate they have to have some sort of personal finance class. So our district has gone through and said that pretty much if you are a sophomore we’re going to make sure it’s on your schedule that you can take it.

So I see a lot of sophomores throughout the course of the day with personal finance.

Host: What have you done since you started teaching personal finance. Are you using a specific textbook What have you figured out in terms of the day-to-day curriculum and lesson plans? What what’s been working for you and maybe even if there’s something that hasn’t worked for you.

Dan: Oh sure. When I first started my very first semester teaching, you know being the new teacher not really knowing the curriculum, I kind of held on to the book as if it was the Bible. And it was Personal Financial Literacy by Joan Ryan. One of those first few editions of it before they started coming out with new ones. And I kind of held that one very near and dear to me throughout that first semester and even that first year just to make sure I was doing everything that the rest of the teachers in my department were doing.

Ever since then I have found that I don’t use the textbook actually. I found that the students want to hear more of the real world side of things. How did I survive? How did I make it to where I am today and in terms of my financials trying to get them to see what the real world life is going to be like outside of you know the spine of a book and outside the four walls of the classroom. So I usually try to bring in a lot of real world examples. I bring in a couple of people from the banks around the surrounding area that are willing to talk to the students about how to open up a checking or savings account, and the dangers of credit cards just so that they can hear it from somebody else. So it’s not like I’m just the teacher standing up there and telling them all this that they may or may not believe it.

Host: Sure. And do you have any projects or things that you’ve found that the students respond to really well.

Dan: Oh absolutely. When it comes to when we get to our budgeting unit you know they really kind of have this hard time because when students get money from mom or dad you know they go out and spend it right away. But when it’s their own money, they try and hang on to it for as long as possible and they don’t spend it. So I have a budgeting project too where they’re they’ve saved up so much of their own money, and they have to plan a vacation and they can either go on vacation by themselves, or they can go out with one other person in their class and do kind of a project and they have to stick to their budget. They have to be gone so many days, and they have to do so many activities per per day. They have to eat at a restaurant as opposed to the hotel. And kids find that they actually enjoy it, because many of them mom and dad are just planning the vacation and taking them on it and it’s kind of a shock to see what they where they end up going because of the financial constraints that go with it.

Host: So you give them a budget is what you’re saying.

Dan: Yeah they have you know a set dollar value depending on if they if they’re traveling by themselves. They have one set dollar value if they partner up with somebody else in that class. I think I gave them you know a couple extra hundred dollars to go on their trip.

Host: Where do you look if you’re needing a lesson plan or specific info about a topic. Are there resources you have found or places you look to to bring information into the classroom?

Dan: Oh yeah I am actually very active on Twitter. #Busedu hashtag. They have a Twitter chat. I think it’s twice a month. The first and third month on Tuesdays.

We usually get together and share out a whole bunch of different ideas on topics and various different things. On the Facebook side, I’m part of a business educators group that you know every now and again somebody will make a post of, “Hey I’m getting ready to teach a digital media class. Does anybody have any topics?” I put out there earlier this school year that I was trying to change up how I was going about the budget unit, and that’s how I actually started that budgeting project that I mentioned earlier.

Host: Sure. And I think I actually found you through the Twitter chat.

Dan: That wouldn’t surprise me.

Host: Given your experience thus far are there any lessons that you’ve learned if your students are having a rough day to get them back on track?

Dan: Sometimes I’ve found that the kids actually like coming to my classroom because I usually try and lighten the mood and crack some jokes and different things. In their eyes, I’m an elective class so it gives them that break from their normal core classes throughout the day. I think if they’re having a bad day, I can usually tell, and you know at some point I’ll go over and kind of lean over or ask them if they’re having a bad day or not and kind of work with them on making sure that if they need that time and space to disconnect for a couple of minutes that they can do that. I just want to make sure that they don’t fall too far behind.

And then we have kind of like a little activity period or advisory period where if they have that bad day, I’ll pull them in and sit down with them one-on-one to make sure that even if they were a little disconnected to make sure that they got the information that I was trying to review or that we were discussing in class and make sure that they get back on track. So they are ready for tomorrow or the next day.

Host: Sure. You said that the personal finance classes at your high school and in your state are required. Do you have to do much selling to get students to take your class?

Dan: Not really. The counselors usually usually go through and make sure to schedule everybody during their class meetings in the spring. The counselors will sit down with them in the gym and go through and say OK you now you guys know you need to make sure to mark your core classes for next year.

And at this point go ahead and fill in the bubbles saying that you’re going to take personal finance as well.

That way we make sure that you get in there. And if it doesn’t work out because you’re taking band or gym or something else that we don’t lose sight of this. The counselors actually in our building do a very very good job at making sure that all of the sophomores get accounted for either first semester or second semester, and if for some reason they don’t end up taking it then they’re first on the list to make it junior year.

Host: When your students come into your class. How much of a sense of personal finance do most of them have.

Dan: It can vary. You know the area that I’m in there’s a lot of the socioeconomic status can vary depending on what side of the district that you’re on. So when they come into the building and especially in my classroom, I kind of do this very generic pre-assessment to see OK what do they know about just calculating hourly rates. What do they know about overtime, budgeting, banking, and all that sort of stuff. Each year even each class you know you have your peaks and valleys because nowadays kids are starting to learn about things at a much earlier age because of technology. They’re going out and finding things on their own.

Host: Do you find is there any any area where you find that students are really surprised whether it’s you know when they look at the paycheck and discover how much they have to pay in taxes? Or I’m just using this as an example. Is there any area that comes to mind for you that the students show a sense of surprise that they don’t know about bank reconciliations and just the overall banking side of money management.

Dan: Because they always see money coming into their wallet. And then when they pay money out at the store or at the restaurant but they don’t necessarily understand how to do the bookkeeping side of the finances – making sure that you know all of your money actually is accounted for. So you don’t go to the store and swipe your credit or debit card and it bounces back and say insufficient funds.

Host: Gotcha. And I take it from that. You teach them about reconciliation and how to manage a checkbook.

Dan: Yes that is usually what ends up taking the majority of our semester. I pretty much focus an entire month or six weeks on the basics of banking: how to write a check, how to fill out a deposit slip, your checkbook register, the endorsements that go on the backside of the check, filling out your checkbook, getting your bank statement, and then actually doing your bank reconciliation at the end.

Host: Gotcha. You mentioned the budgeting exercise for vacation. Are there other projects that you have run across that have really captured the attention of your students that you would want to mention?

Dan: The banking packets – I call them packet’s but they’re actually projects. They get this scenario: here’s your budget, and here’s your list of transactions that you’ve made over the course of a couple of weeks or maybe even a month or more. You need to document them appropriately in your checkbook register. You then need to write the appropriate checks and fill out the appropriate deposit slips, and then I give them their bank statement and they go through and they have to fill out their bank reconciliation.

I usually have a couple of questions after they have gone through and had every dollar value accounted for to where you know, “Ok you’ve got some money leftover at the end of the month. What would you like to do with it now that you know that you have that money there?Then they go out and write me a couple sentences, or they’ll go out and find me a picture of what it is that they would go and spend their money their remaining dollar value on.

Well one of them usually uses some sort of technology. Somebody tried to even find a car on Craigslist as well.

Host: That’s great. So have you used Virtual Business simulations with your students?

Dan: I actually did during my student teaching semester, but we have not had a chance to incorporate it into our curriculum just yet. I’m kind of hoping that the Department of Education here in Missouri can help change that. In the next couple of weeks there’s some new proposed personal finance standards that are currently being reviewed by the public. Technology integration is is one of the sticking points, and hopefully we can try and get that within the next year or two going.

Host: I just would add that they are eligible for Perkins funding.

So that’s all the questions I had is there anything we didn’t discuss or any final words of wisdom that you might have for someone who’s listening who’s a high school personal finance teacher or teaches business at the high school level.

Dan: Sure. You know my words of advice is you know just make sure that the students are engaged in some way shape or form. I know that tends to be one of the hardest things with technology these days. But try and embrace it the best that you can. If you’re in a computer lab, find projects and then just make sure that the projects are as real world as possible. Growing up, I learned best when it wasn’t from a textbook. So that’s kind of why I ditched my textbook in the classroom and just tried to use as many real-world examples as possible. I found that the students are much more engaged and willing to participate. It helps build the relationships with the students on a much deeper level, and where they come back and want to share what they’ve found. Once they hit that real world and have to do the banking on thier own.

Host: That’s great advice. Well again we’ve been speaking with Dan Winkeler, a teacher at Seckman High School in Imperial Missouri. Dan thanks for doing this interview.

Dan: Oh no thank you.