Retired member honored by former student

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Retired member honored by former student

Voice: November 2018

Norma Piccone was taken aback when she received a phone call from a former student some 53 years after teaching her.

Joan Lazar (“Joanie” to Piccone) reached out to talk to her former first-grade teacher from Sabold Elementary in the Springfield School District, Delaware County, to tell her about the impact she had on her life and to share what she is doing to honor her.

Piccone, a member of PSEA-Retired/Delaware/Philadelphia, taught for 35 years and introduced her first-graders to money management. At the beginning of the school year, she walked her students across the street to the bank and opened a savings account for each one of them, making sure they all received a passbook.

“Every Friday, we went to the bank and added $1 to our accounts and watched them grow with interest throughout the year,” Lazar said.

Piccone didn’t stop there. After her students’ accounts grew, she instructed them to open a school store. They sold items such as pencils, erasers, and Cracker Jacks.

“It gets better,” Lazar said. “She had us sell shares of stock in our business. I was six years old with a savings account, running a business, and selling stock.”

This was truly a money management program for first-graders.

“I enlisted the help of parents to help back the store,” Piccone said. “I told them they would see a return on their money, and they actually saw a substantial profit. Later, parents would come to me with more money to invest.”

Laughing, she added, “I told them that this was not a money-making business but a learning lesson for their children. We later used some of the profits to print a small book about it.”

Piccone was ahead of her time. According to studies completed at the Center for Social Development at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis in 2011, there is a connection between assets and college enrollment and completion. CSD researchers found that among youth who expected to graduate from a four-year college, those with a savings account in their name were approximately six times more likely to attend college than those with no account. 

Lazar is aware of these studies. To continue her favorite teacher’s legacy, she is working with her partner, Ron, to institute a similar program in schools. 

As residents of Austin, Texas, they have persuaded a local private school to institute a semester-long enrichment course on finance. Along with learning about the miracle of compounding interest and how to save to become a millionaire, one of the weekly classes called “The Mrs. Piccone Lesson,” included a trip to a nearby credit union to open up savings accounts in each student’s name. They deposited whatever they could, and the bank added $5 to their accounts to get them started. Ultimately, Joan and Ron hope to have the finance course recorded and posted as a series of YouTube videos to extend the reach to more children.

Lazar isn’t alone in reconnecting with her favorite teacher. Many of Piccone’s students keep in touch with her. They keep her apprised of their successes, share pictures of their homes, and even take their children to visit her.

Piccone enjoys her retired life in Florida with her husband and has never forgotten a student’s name. She is “so touched” by the tributes her students have paid her.

“I can’t tell you how it makes me feel to be honored this way,” Piccone said.