RISD Teacher Wins National TD Ameritrade Award for Financial Literacy App
A Richardson Independent School District reading teacher is developing an app that promotes financial literacy by providing users with specific learning materials based on spending habits and patterns.
Derrick Wesley teaches sixth-grade reading at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. He also owns iMar Learning Solutions, the developer of Plan-It, which teaches financial literacy to empower communities and individuals through a heightened awareness and increased aptitude.
Plan-It also allows investment advisers to help clients by matching them with appropriate financial information aimed at improving their business acumen.
Earlier in February, TD Ameritrade Institutional named Plan-It the inaugural winner of its first Innovation Quest, a national financial technology competition aimed at generating new ideas in investment advising. Wesley gave a 15-minute pitch at the brokerage firm’s LINC Conference in San Diego and won the grand prize of $25,000 on top of the $25,000 for being one of three finalists for the award.
Wesley is overjoyed and overwhelmed by the achievement. He says the idea for Plan-It is borne of his time teaching eighth-grade reading and AVID at Richardson North Junior High School.
“AVID and Junior Achievement partnered to provide financial literacy materials for us to teach our AVID students,” Wesley says. “The students loved the lessons, but they were left with many questions because they went home and asked their parents about the things we discussed in class. The parents didn’t have a lot of the answers to the questions that they were asking.”
He says curriculum demands kept him from continuing the financial literacy lessons. Then, Wesley stumbled upon the Innovation Quest contest, noticed a financial literacy component, and — with his North AVID students in mind — began developing Plan-It.
Now, “here we are with the possibility of my idea becoming a reality.” But Wesley understands getting the app to market requires more.
“My next step is to find more funding and partners to invest and help me turn my idea into a tool that can help change lives as soon as possible,” he says. “Heather Fortner, chief operating officer of Signature FD, was one of the judges for the contest, and during my time on stage, she stated that this would be a massive project that would require a lot money.”
The Louisiana native and University of New Orleans grad wants to keep teaching “for as long as I can.” He also hosts a monthly Youth Leadership Academy with Michael Finley through the Dallas-based foundation the former Mavericks great started to empower young people to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential inside and outside the classroom.
“We meet once a month with the students that participate in his summer academic program. Our lessons focus on leadership, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, analytical thinking, communication, and collaboration,” Wesley says. “I plan to continue working with our students in the ACE schools, for example, to help build their leadership capacity. Overall, iMar Learning Solutions’ mission is to help others to grow mentally so they can reach their full potential.”
Richardson North Junior High Principal Josh Eason says Wesley seeks out the best in every kid.
“Derrick makes great connections with students and truly invests in their lives,” Eason says. “He really pushes students to think for themselves and teaches them to open new doors for opportunity. Derrick has been such an asset to RISD through his commitment to our mission of helping every student connect, learn, grow and succeed. He is beloved by his students and our staff for his belief in all kids and his actions as a valued teammate in our learning community.”