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J.R. Robertson, retired sales engineer in the oil and gas industry, and third grade teacher Ruth Stone give the students their diplomas at the completion of their five week Junior Achievement classes.

Imagine you are in Kindergarten. ABC’s and 1, 2, 3’s right? Not anymore. Classes as young as Kindergarteners are learning finance skills including buying, income, saving and what it means to be a consumer.

It’s all part of Westside Elementary School’s Junior Achievement program, which provides curriculum that helps meet the legislative mandate to teach financial skills to students. And while the mandate begins in 7th grade, Westside Principal Lou Robertson believes “money” skills should begin in kindergarten.

“Children in Kindergarten are able to understand coin recognition, decision-making, following directions, listening responsively, and sequencing — which are all part of learning money skills,” Robertson said.

Junior Achievement is a nationwide initiative to bring community members into the schools to teach the world of work and finance. At Westside Elementary that includes lawyers, small business owners, a pilot, bank president, even an Air Force pilot. A total of 26 volunteers participated this year to teach a five-hour class to Kindergarten through fourth grade.

“Having business men and women discussing their jobs and the relevance of the math and social studies skills we teach can only bring positive results,” Robertson said.

Robertson was quick to note that the Westside P.T.O. paid $2600 for the school wide curriculum.

“That’s impressive,” said Robertson, “They realize the importance of this program for our students.”

JA’s elementary school programs include six sequential themes, each with five hands-on activities, to change students’ lives by helping them understand business and economics. Each grade level is presented a different theme. Kindergartners are presented “Ourselves” which uses compelling stories read aloud by the volunteer, along with hands-on activities to demonstrate helping, working, earning, and saving.

In first grade the students learn about “Our Families” which emphasizes the roles people play in the local economy and engages students with activities about needs, wants, jobs, tools and skills, and interdependence. Second graders learn about “Our Community” which explores the interdependent roles of workers in a community, the work they perform, and how communities work. “Our City” studies careers, the skills people need to work in specific careers, and how businesses contribute to a city, presented at a third grade level.

“Our Region” introduces fourth graders to the relationship between the natural, human, and capital resources found in different regions and explores regional businesses that produce goods and services for consumers.

This is the second year for Westside to utilize the JA program. Robertson says the teachers love it, too.

Ruth Stone, a third grade teacher at Westside, said “The students love having our volunteer teach measurement, practice with the rulers, establish a restaurant in our “town”, and balance a checkbook. All the skills are required by the state, but the kids think we’re just having fun. Having the community leaders come into the schools helps us make the learning relevant.”

Robertson agreed the business leader interaction is essential to the program. Rick Mosier, local attorney and school board president, participates in the program.

“As busy as Mr. Mosier is, he comes each year to teach in our school and participate in this important learning program, “Mrs. Robertson said. “His girls attended Westside; although we didn’t have J.A. then!”

Business men and women who participated in the program this year are: Jo Albert, Traci Ballard, David Book, Pat Chambers, Gary Collins, Al Dickson, Dr. Steve Egleston, Dr. Steve Hardage, LaDonna Hendrix, Carrie Higgins, Tim Hight, Major Eric Jacquet, Superintendent Michael McClaren, Herb McSpadden, David Merriman, Gary Miles, Rick Mosier, Judge Steve Pazzo, J.R. Robertson, Rusty Robertson, Glen Schwartz, Terry Simpson, Sam Smoot, Tammy Thomas, Rick Tolar, and Pam Watson.

“The students are highly motivated about geography when Major Jacquet comes in,” Mrs. Ryser, fourth grade teacher, said. “We hope he teaches next year as well. What an asset to our curriculum and a model for patriotism!”


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