To prepare them for independent living, special ed teacher gives her students the gift of financial literacy

Moanalua High School teacher Cicily Bilecki designed fine-tuned a program that teaches money...
Moanalua High School teacher Cicily Bilecki designed fine-tuned a program that teaches money management to special education students.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Dec. 21, 2018 at 9:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Moanalua High School, transition instructor Cicily Bilecki teaches money management to special needs students to prepare them for independent living.

"I show them my actual budget," Bilecki said. "I'm not afraid to show them what it looks like with my paycheck and where everything goes."

Her students are teens and young adults with intellectual or learning disabilities.

Bilecki said all of them share a common interest.

"They love talking about money," she said.

So she teaches them about taxes, debit cards, credit cards and interest rates, and how to stay out of money trouble.

“My students know, ‘Hey, I don’t sign things if I don’t understand it,’” she said

Bilecki was inspired to become a special ed teacher by her autistic sister Haley's own rise to independence.

"We like to use technology in our classroom so we do interviews with Haley. I think that's the best lesson. They don't want to hear me anymore," she said.

Bilecki created a curriculum that combines DOE standards and her own ideas, like the dos and don’ts of a job interview.

“How do you shake someone’s hand firmly and look them in the eye? It’s hard for some individuals. So I give them tips and tricks. Look at their ears but it looks like you’re looking right at them.” she said.

Over 13 years, Bilecki’s taught more than 100 special education students who’ve benefited from her practical lessons on financial literacy.

She runs into them when she's out and about.

"I'll be in the community and I'll hear, 'Miss Bilecki! I got married. I'm paying bills now.' Some are like, 'I've got two jobs. Yes, you were right. Life is hard,'" she said.

Thanks to her hands-on lessons on managing their money their lives are a bit easier.

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