THE BLOG

Our First Teachers: Moms and Education

05/08/2015 06:57 pm ET | Updated May 08, 2016

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As I shared in a post at this time last year, the topic of education always seems to surface when I speak with adult children of all ages about the admiration they have for their mothers. I am reminded of all that we learn from our very first teachers and am inspired by the critical role women play in both the education and the educational pursuits of those they love.

As an example among so very many that have warmed my heart, I will always remember the incredibly moving manner in which Paula Sammons, program officer, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, spoke of her mother in the opening plenary at last year's CFED Children's Savings Conference in Washington, D.C., just prior to Mother's Day. An immigrant from Japan finding herself divorced with three small children, Paula's mom was determined to provide the best life she could for her family. Paula shared her discovery as a teen that her mother had been making weekly bank deposits of $1-2 a week for each of her children and thereby creating a small but valuable nest egg for college. She remarked, "I am so grateful to my mother for the incredible sacrifices and commitment she had to our future and our dreams all those years, and to all the other parents who are doing the same for their children, even when they have so little." The nods of affirmation and the roaring applause Paula received from the hundreds of attendees was clearly not just for her, but for her mother as well, and the countless others like her around the globe and the children they teach and inspire.

Like Paula's, moms are instrumental in shaping the money habits of their children. In first-generation college going families and those that struggle with making ends meet, moms are provided with countless opportunities to offer an expanded "curriculum" which includes valuable topics such as the development of resourcefulness, perseverance and resilience. For moms, challenges present a wide range of teachable moments which enable their children to observe and develop coping strategies that will serve them well in years to come.

With Mother's Day upon us and as we collectively celebrate the contributions of mothers everywhere:

1. Take time to reflect on and acknowledge the support and encouragement you received from your mother or other role models throughout your journey. If you're fortunate to have a mom who is still around, offer her a special thank you for her commitment to your future and all that she taught you. If your mom has passed on, share her contributions with others as they continue to live on through you.

2. Celebrate the role you've played in the lives of young people in your life and consider deepening your support in any way you can. Demonstrating your own savings habits goes a long way in inspiring children in your life and engaging in age appropriate conversations about educational and career options helps show that you believe in and are interested in them.

3. Help moms-to-be and new moms get off to a strong start by replacing more traditional gifts (which are often quickly outgrown) with a contribution to a college savings account as a baby shower or baby arrival gift. Your thoughtful present may quickly become a favorite as it helps moms (and dads) get an early start on an important goal, while opening the door for other friends and family to contribute as well.

On a personal note, as I prepare to celebrate Mother's Day this weekend in honor of my mom, I am reminded of her unending support of her four children, her commitment to our future and all that she taught us through her leadership and devotion. Also a single mom like Paula's, she worked tirelessly and left no stone unturned to assure that we could follow our dreams. My mom's amazing faith, unconditional love, can-do attitude, incredible problem solving skills, strong work ethic and ability to get by on a very tight budget, along with her support of our education and aspirations, instilled priceless values in us. Through the examples she set as she confidently led the way, we learned so much more than we possibly could have in any traditional classroom. My siblings and I are as proud of our first teacher as she is of each of us.

Happy Mother's Day to the many remarkable women who have taught us so very much!

This post originally appeared on the College Savings Plans Network blog on May 8, 2015