New financial literacy teacher joins high school staff


Photo Credit: Anastasia Zenkovich

New teacher Ms. Uma Kearns teaches her financial literacy class.

by Laura Yuan and Anastasia Zenkevich

From big city to small town, financial literacy teacher Uma Kearns has seen it all. Starting with her early career running a credit department to substitute teaching, she has come a long way in order to teach her own class.

Beginning this summer, Kearns joined the staff at Glen Rock high school taking the position as the new financial literacy teacher. Although teaching was a big change from her previous occupation, she has adjusted quickly.

“The staff here have reached out to me and have been really helpful and I really like the kids,” Kearns said.

Many teachers have given her support as she adjusts to her new position. Mrs. Donna Maasarani and Mr. Frank Manziano have, on multiple occasions, lent a helping hand. Her previous experience in the business world helped her to better relate to her students and conduct her class in an inclusive way.

She has the class work in teams to simulate a business environment, which is also made possible by the abundance of technology available in the classroom.

“Get going, do it and let me hear what you’ve got. That’s what happens in the business world,” she said. “You don’t always know what’s coming up but you have a deadline. So that’s really something I’d like to do a lot more.”

“I really enjoy how Mrs. Kearns allows us to work in groups because it gives us insight on how it feels to actually work with others in addressing different business scenarios in the real world,” said a sophomore currently taking the class.

Kearns wants all of her students to be responsible for their money. Investing wisely, saving, and making good decisions when spending are fundamental principles of the class.

Kearns never realized her love for business until she took her first economics course. Unlike at Glen Rock, her high school never required students to take any business or financial literacy courses. However, taking economics opened her up to a completely new experience, allowing her to discover her interest in finance. While attending school, Kearns gained a lot of practical experience while working a part time job at the Reserve Fund, a mutual fund money market. The combination of work experience and studying made her realize her potential in pursuing business as a future career.

“There are a lot opportunities for women,” she said “If you have a good skill set you can get ahead if you try hard enough.”

When Kearns graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business with a Master’s Degree in Economics and MBA, teaching financial literacy in a small town high school never crossed her mind. At her previous job, she ran the credit department of a financial gallantry named NBIA. There she helped set up an in house training program for new employees learning about credit analysis. While this experience was not at all like teaching in a high school classroom, this was Kearns’s first venture into teaching.

Kearns began working in college and by 2013 had been in the business field for 30 years.

“My daughter was going into 7th and my son was going into 5th grade,” she said. “I had worked the entire time they were babies and I decided I did not want to get another job in New York where I would spend a lot of hours.”

She decided then to leave her previous employment and began looking into careers that would allow her to spend more time with her children. For Kearns who wanted to stay closer to home while utilizing her years of business experience, teaching was her perfect happy medium. She first began to work as a substitute teacher at Northern Highlands High School and realized that teaching was a field she had an interest in pursuing. Soon after she received her credentials online, she began looking into potential employments.

Living in Ridgewood with her family, Kearns often heard good things about the Glen Rock School system.

“I heard particularly that the kids are nice which is always important. Smart kids, nice community, and really involved parents, made me want to come work here,” she said.

Overall for Kearns, just three months into the school year, this career change from the corporate world to teaching has been a change for the better.

“Sometimes you go to work in company and you’ve been there for a while and people are under pressure. When you walk in everyone is so driven they will barely look up and say hello. It’s a whole different environment in a school,” she said. “It’s a whole different atmosphere, a whole different culture.”