Brian Page was the first recipient of the 2011 Milken National Educator Award, and Ohio’s only recipient. In July, he was named a CNN Money magazine “Money Hero.” Mr. Page was also awarded an EIFLE for co-creating the financial education “National Instructional Game of the Year,” Tabletop and has received numerous other regional and statewide “Teacher of the Year” recognitions. He sits on various education advisory boards such as the Council for Economic Education (GATE), Vanguard, and multiple working groups with the Ohio Department of Education. Mr. Page is currently a finance and economic education teacher with Reading Community City Schools and holds a M.Ed. and B.B.A. You can follow him on Twitter here.
I teach finance, economics and business to Ohio high school students — and every student who goes through my class gets a grounding in basic finances. But why do I teach that, as opposed to any number of other classes?
Growing up, my mom taught special education, and my dad was a robotic arms instructor for Siemens. Then, when I was eight, a tornado changed everything. When the violent winds and terrifying sounds had passed, I sat up confused. I did not understand why I was getting rained on, because just a few seconds ago I had been indoors. I saw Grandpa but no one else. The eerie silence was broken by Mom screaming for my brother and me. She dug herself out of the rubble and stood up, a bloody mess. We found my brother and our grandma and began to move to the center of the house.
In that instant, everything changed for our family. My mother’s injuries eventually triggered multiple sclerosis. She fought through it and continued to teach for a number of years before the pain of her injuries and the fatigue of the disease was too much to handle.
My dad had grown up poor and actually lived in an abandoned railroad car for a few years. He worked hard at Siemens and another job at DHL, and so, with my mom’s teaching salary, we were comfortable.
Then came mom’s disability — and then Siemens outsourced Dad’s job, and DHL moved out of the area. Their savings enabled them to ride out the economic storm. But even in the good times, my parents drove a car that defied description, the worst car I have ever seen. A picture is within this post.
If you look closely at the picture, you will see there are no door handles; they all rusted off. So my dad eventually ran metal fish wire through the door. To open it, you yanked on the wire as if you were starting a weed eater, and the doors instantly popped open. I’m sure that most people thought was an abandoned vehicle.
When I asked my dad why they never drove a nicer car, he had me do some math. After summing up the cost of a car payment and full coverage car insurance, I was taken back by how much money my father saved. I sat quietly for a few moments, and then dad looked me in the eye and said, “Son, we never drove a new car because, if we had, we wouldn’t have had the money to send you to college. And I will not have any son of mine living in a railroad car like I had to in order to pay for a college education.”
The lesson did not have as much to do with paying for college or making sacrifices as it did with setting priorities — and at that moment, I understood the importance of spending your money on the people and the things you value the most.
Why do I teach? I teach because every child deserves these kinds of lessons. I teach because children deserve to be empowered with a financial education, so they can understand the importance of being financially healthy — and be prepared for life’s inevitable tough twists and turns.