February Top Notch Teacher
WYEVILLE, Wis. -- You wouldn't expect fifth graders to talk about balancing their check books and paying their bills. But for students at Wyeville Elementary near Tomah, handling a budget is as common as physical education.
In Mike Lyga's fifth grade class, payday comes every two weeks and bills need to be paid on time.
To keep the kids motivated and teach life skill, Mr. Lyga has a money system.
"We have fines for the classroom and we're earning money on assignments," Lyga says.
"He'll draw a number out of the box, and if it's your number and you go up and get it right, you get the money," says 5th grader Ryan.
The students then pay their bills, take out a percentage for the IRS and even balance a checkbook.
It's a strategy that Mr. Lyga's students remember for a long time.
"When I actually got my very own checkbook in high school, I automatically knew what I was doing since because I learned about it in fifth grade and I remembered it all those years," says Jessica Chaffee, one of Lyga's former students.
At the end of the year, students get to use their fake money to buy real items in a blind auction.
"Its a good time it gives them something to strive for to shoot for," Lyga says.
"I got a football," Chaffee says with a laugh. "I bought a football"
And while the kids have fun with Mr. Lyga's creative way to keep them engaged in the learning process, it's all about helping the kids become young adults for Mr Lyga.
"My goal really is to have good self-drive, self-esteem, believe in yourself and just have a work ethic and believe in yourself and realize 'I can do it," Lyga says.
It's the opportunity to make a lasting difference in the kids lives that keeps him going.
"I just like it when the kids come back and remember the things I do," Lyga says. "Sometimes, you know, we as teachers get so focused on the skill sets, which are very important, but the things the kids really remember are how you treated them. When they come back and they're talking to you and they're bringing up stories, I think that's pretty cool."
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