Jennifer Guenther, program
manager of Early$tart=Money$mart, poses with the
puppets she uses to teach young children about
— Preschool is a time for learning about shapes, sounds and if
you’re Early$tart=Money$mart Program Manager Jennifer Guenther,
recently retired from the classroom after 21 years to pursue her
ultimate vision — to educate students throughout the state on
the importance of financial literacy.
developed three programs under the umbrella of Early$tart=Money$mart.
programs are targeted at different grade levels and teach a
range of topics. For example, her program targeted for students
in preschool to third grade uses four finance-themed puppets, a
story, arts and crafts and acting to teach kids about money.
financial literacy programs are largely introduced at the high
school level. Teaching basic money skills to younger students
partnership with EconomicsWisconsin she is introducing these
programs to area libraries, schools, churches, banks and
community centers, among others.
started as a passion project when she first started teaching.
While in her elementary grade classroom, she introduced a
classroom currency system where students earned money, had
expenses and ultimately learned basic financial literacy.
went back to school for her master’s degree, she worked her
ideas into a capstone business class she took. It was noticed.
EconomicsWisconsin awarded her with an Excellence in Teaching
award in 2006. Then in 2009, she received a Herb Kohl Fellowship
award, denoting excellence in teaching, and then in 2011, she
capped off her award portfolio with a Governor’s Award from the
Governor’s Council for Financial Literacy.
her school started reorganizing. She was taken out of elementary
school and placed into an English class.
that for a while, until last summer. She approached
EconomicsWisconsin with the idea to flesh out her courses and
start pursuing them. They agreed and she left behind the
classroom in September, took two months to develop her programs
and is now getting ready to start presenting them.
programs are targeted for students from preschool through sixth
grade. She then has a separate program for adults raising
children from age 4 and up.
not all Guenther is a part of when it comes to financial
literacy and students.
approached by a representative of BMO Harris Bank to be a part
of their partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Economic
Education and their two initiatives, Talk to Your Kids About
Money Day and the money fair.
Your Kids About Money Day is exactly what it sounds like and is
set, annually, for the last Wednesday in April. They want
parents “to have the talk with their kids,” Guenther said.
fair is very similar to the science fair, but instead of solving
a scientific problem, students would be given an economic
problem to solve.
those things and her Early$tart=Money$mart program are driving
Guenther’s ultimate vision: to blend the two programs together
and help kids from preschool to high school to understand the
importance of money.
to see the money fair take off,” Guenther said. “When they were
telling me about this I immediately thought it was great. ... If
I can see the money fair happen throughout the state of
Wisconsin and if I can be a catalyst for any part of it I’d feel
really good about that.”
chose Oconomowoc to be one of the first places she starts her
calls the Town of Erin her home. She graduated from Oconomowoc
High School in 1989 and attended the University of Wisconsin-
Eau Claire for her teaching degree. She was a recipient of a
scholarship from the Oconomowoc Scholarship Fund and is trying
to return the favor by serving the Oconomowoc area with her
services “to give back to the community that supported me many
years ago,” Guenther said.
more about financial literacy and Guenther’s programs, email her