We were lucky to catch up with Derrick Wesley recently and have shared our conversation below.
Derrick, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Let’s kick things off with a hypothetical question – if it were up to you, what would you change about the school or education system to better prepare students for a more fulfilling life and career?
I believe every school district should teach financial literacy. In the United States, only 17% of districts offer financial education. This is a huge problem! There is an old saying that “money makes the world go round,” and many Americans aren’t getting a slice of the pie due to their lack of financial education.
The majority of Americans lack financial literacy, and this must change if we are to make America what it should be. The mission of Seedlyng Financial Education is to provide schools and students with fun, engaging, and innovative classroom resources. Our company was started by educators who saw the pain and suffering of students from low-income homes, homeless students, and more, and we want to do our part to help these students and their families.
Florida just became the largest state to require high school graduates to take a financial literacy course. This is very good news, and hopefully, more states will follow suit. We offer programs for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Since they were five years old, my two sons have asked me questions about money and how it works. Making it mandatory for high school students is a good move, but requiring it before then would be even better. During high school, students worry about paying for college, paying taxes, and finding out how much car insurance is. Since they have real-life issues to deal with, they might not have had the opportunity to learn the basics.
This course is needed sooner because the basics are assumed to have been learned in middle and elementary school. During my time as a middle school reading teacher, I learned that we cannot assume students already know something they should have learned in elementary school. For example, we assess students’ reading and knowledge levels at the beginning of the year, and we spend time reteaching the areas in which they have difficulty. For some students, getting caught up might take all four years if we wait until high school.
The goal is for students to gain access to financial knowledge earlier in life, so once they graduate high school and enter the real world, they are prepared to face any challenges that may arise.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
iMar Learning Solutions was created by teachers for teachers and the students they care about. The members of our team have experience working with students from a wide range of economic, educational, and social backgrounds. Our platform is designed to help learners get exactly what they need on their own learning level based on their unique educational needs.
In 2019, I won TD Ameritrade’s Innovation Contest with an idea to create a mobile application for teens and young adults. I am passionate about financial literacy and helping others understand what financial freedom is and how to achieve it. We have provided our flagship product, Seedlyng Financial Education, to teens in Chicago, Texas, Philadelphia, Idaho, the country of Lebanon, and more.
Seedlyng plants the seeds of financial knowledge to help our users understand how money works and provides resources to help grow their bank accounts. We provide learners with personalized, relatable content, and help teachers by taking the fear out of teaching finance through ‘just-in-time’ professional development.
Along with our mobile application, campus ambassador program, data analysis tools, in-person & virtual workshops, we have partnered with CentSai Education to provide a comprehensive solution for teaching and modeling financial education concepts through an online financial literacy curriculum.
Our program creates a personalized experience for every user. Each user starts by taking a short assessment in the areas of financial psychology, entrepreneurship, saving, and budgeting. Our program then creates a personalized set of courses based on each learners’ individual needs.
We are a turn-key solution for our users, with the goal of changing the mindsets of our learners and teaching them to be financially literate, confident, and competent.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
Education sales is a slow process. School districts are known for not making changes or adopting new technology overnight. Edtech startups have to be patient and take their time to build a relationship with the districts they want to partner with. When I launched Seedlyng Financial Education my plan was to visit potential schools, get to know the principals, teachers, and students, and begin our journey to working together. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans for our team.
COVID put a wrench in our plans to change student financial futures in-person and we had to pivot and offer ALL of our services online. As educators, we are experienced with having to make changes on the fly, because things rarely go as planned in the classroom. It isn’t as easy to change your business plan on the fly. We had to call a ‘business audible’ and be able to offer our services online via Zoom and make sure the experience was still fun and engaging for the students. We were blessed with the opportunity to work with schools in Lebanon in the Middle East via a grant from the US Embassy. This opportunity gave us the chance to pilot our new services and learn how to best deliver this teaching model to students.
We’d love to hear about you met your business partner.
“We were part of the problem,” is a quote that our COO, Richard Ciarletta often shares, and I completely agree with him. We are a team of educators and we often reflect on our journey to launching Seedlyng. Richard Ciarletta and I were middle school AVID teachers. AVID is a college and career readiness program for students that need a little more help and support to reach their academic goals.
We talked about how students were not learning real-life skills like budgeting, investing, and how to manage their finances. We taught a lot of students that came from low-to-no income homes and we believed something needed to be done to ensure that our students could have a better chance to be successful in life.
Our education careers took us in different directions. Richard became an education consultant for an ed-tech software company, and I started developing Seedlyng while also teaching full-time. After I participated in TD Ameritrade’s Innovation contest, Richard was the first person I reached out to, because I knew he would be on board to bring our passion for financial literacy to life.
Since our launch in 2020, we have worked with schools in Texas, Chicago, Idaho, Nevada, and more. We are excited to see what is next!
- Website: https://www.imarlearningsolutions.com/seedlyng-financial-literacy
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/derrick-wesley-imar-learning/
- Twitter: @Seedlyng
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC53iwLvWNiw_bbMM7-zogMQ/featured
- Other: Seedlyng Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/seedlyng