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TMS students take on the stock market

Personal finance students at Triad Middle School recently received awards in the recent Illinois Bankers Association Stock Market Game. Pictured left to right are Waylon Wiemers, Landon Jones, Zach Symmonds, Grant Wulfing, Tommy Krisch, Ian Patrick, Sam Skirball, Logan Fry and Spencer Fussland. Behind the students left to right are teachers Jon Brandt and Heath Keller. Photo by Pat Pratt

New personal finance class is helping students learn fiscal responsibility

By Pat Pratt

Seventh grader Zach Symmonds may be looking to a future as a professional broker after learning the intricacies of the stock market and other economic topics through a new personal finance class at Triad Middle School.

Symmonds was one of several students in the class who recently competed in, and won awards through, the Illinois Bankers Association Stock Market Game. The game gives students a virtual $100,000 investment portfolio to manage and trade. He and classmates Tommy Krisch, Ian Patrick and Sam Skirball all claimed first-place medals in the competition. 

“We started picking bigger companies, like Tesla, Amazon and Google and then we did a few smaller companies,” Symmonds said. “We kind of just spread it all over the place. At one point we were really far down and the stock market went up and we took first.”

Skirball said in addition to teaching him about trades, the class equipped him with a better understanding about how finances apply to everyday life.

“The class was just touching on personal finances and handling money responsibly,” Skirball said. “And where to spend it in the right departments and what to invest in.”

Math teacher Heath Keller is one of three TMS staff teaching the personal finance class this year. He said while the stock trading game is one component, the class is really about equipping students with financial skills for everyday living. 

“Even without the stock market, it’s a really good class for learning how to save money, where your money is being spent, and paying bills,” Keller said. “Right now we are doing check writing, along with debit cards and credit cards and the differences. These are lifelong skills they need to be able to understand as well.” 

Social studies teacher Jon Brandt is also teaching the personal finance course this semester at the middle school. He said while the course is mandatory at the high school level, teachers and administrators at TMS feel it is a solid offering for younger students as well. 

“It doesn’t matter what career they choose – whether they go to college or choose a trade or go into the service – they are going to be spending money and making money throughout their entire life,” Brandt said. “So we decided as a school this is a curriculum students are going to benefit from.”

“They will get another dose of it at the high school, but the sooner you get them into good financial habits they will remember those things and it will be better for them.” 

Brandt and Keller said the class is based on the Dave Ramsey curriculum, a renowned personal finance course with offerings for kindergarten through college students. Some of the class content is interactive, composed of videos and activities to engage students on their grade level. 

“We also have some hands on, where we are going through 15 days of a budget and putting together the numbers,” Brandt said. ”So it is something that engages them, because it is something brand new. And we approach it as something they are going to be using in everyday life and not as a dry subject.”

Principal Matt Noyes said the school is always looking for opportunities for students to learn and grow in creative ways. The class was explored just before the pandemic happened and as the school was looking for new electives, it was added to the schedule. 

“We were looking for electives that seventh and eighth grade students could take that might be of interest and have some form of real world application,” Thankfully, we have a few guys here that have a little bit of a business background here in Mr. Brandt, Mr. (Austin) Johnson and Mr. Keller and they were eager and willing to jump on board and teach a personal finance course.” 


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