The three days beginning the 11th of October represented three firsts for me. My first trip to the heart of the Waikato; Hamilton, my first uLearn conference, and my first dining experience at a Valentines (yes these still exist). Two of these events lived up to, or even exceeded expectations, while one failed miserably, utterly, and totally to live up to the hype.

As many will know, uLearn is New Zealand’s largest educators conferences which caters to the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. While it was Banqer’s third time attending, this was my first. For us it represents a great opportunity to keep in touch with what’s going on in the education space, to catch-up with some of our existing Banqer teachers, and to introduce Banqer to a range of new teachers.

After positive feedback from our taster session at uLearn 2016, we were excited to present a longer, one and a half hour, interactive breakout session on transforming the classroom using financial literacy. Micah (Banqer Co-Founder and a teacher at Medbury School), Colin and Victoria (teachers at Linwood Avenue School) covered financial literacy options in New Zealand, before everyone got their hands dirty with Banqer. Teachers were assigned Banqer accounts (with varying funds) and got to gain a hands-on student perspective of Banqer. Like many Banqer classes, we also incorporated a couple of class auctions throughout. Just like the auctions that take place in the classroom, our auctions included flurries of bidding, the odd bit of talking out of turn, and concluded with the auction winners blowing all of their cash. In this case all of their cash ($3,000) purchased them a coffee card and an auction pack ($4,250).

While this may sound cliche, undoubtedly the highlight of the trip to uLearn was the conversations had with teachers. It was also a great opportunity to put a face to the names of some of our Banqer teachers who I frequently chat with over Banqer’s messenger system, not to mention to arm them with some goodies to take back to their classes. It was also great be able to introduce Banqer to many a range of new teachers. I personally love seeing teachers faces light up as they see begin to comprehend the potential of Banqer in their classes, and as they hear Micah’s firsthand recounts of how his students respond to Banqer.

These conversations at uLearn, and those with Micah, Colin and Victoria during our three days together also gave me an increased appreciation for what teachers do day-to-day and the frequency at which they go above and beyond. The industry is obviously at poignant state at the moment with the talk of strikes, wages and work life balance hitting the mainstream media. I can only hope that this increased exposure leads to a resolution whereby teachers are allowed the kind of work environment they deserve.

Many of you will now have figured that it wasn’t uLearn I was referring to when I mentioned one of my three firsts didn’t meet expectations. I’m going to put the people of Hamilton out of their suspense and confirm that it wasn’t Hamilton that failed to meet expectations either. Well, why on earth did you have high expectations of Valentines you say? Growing up in the 90’s meant that one certain member of our uLearn party had fond memories of Valentines. Memories so fond that we felt it cruel to deny them the opportunity to reminisce. However, unfortunately it turned out that these fond memories (and the associated eight bowls of chocolate mousse in one sitting) were best left in the 90’s.

With uLearn done and dusted for another year we look forward to uLearn returning to Auckland in 2018 (albeit disappointed the Garden City didn’t get the opportunity to host). Hopefully this sees the number of delegates return to the levels of a few years ago, and that one of the Auckland Valentines can redeem it’s Hamilton cousin...

Insights from Simon (Banqer team member and uLearn initiated).