Brian Li (2003, BS in Mathematics and Anthropology)

Financial Education Teacher at Providence Day School in Charlotte, NC
Brian Li ('03) headshot for Deacon Spotlight

Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

I am currently a math and finance educator at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. In my role, I teach students about mathematical concepts and financial literacy, equipping them with essential skills for their future.

At the moment, I am working on several projects to enhance financial education within our curriculum. I’m developing interactive lessons that cover topics such as budgeting, investing, and understanding financial markets. Additionally, I’m collaborating with colleagues to integrate real-world applications of mathematics into our finance discussions, creating a holistic learning experience for our students.

Outside the classroom, I am actively involved in promoting financial literacy initiatives, both locally and nationally. I have recently presented at conferences and events, sharing insights and strategies for empowering individuals with financial knowledge. Overall, I am passionate about helping others build financial competence and achieve their goals.

What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

My journey to becoming a math and finance educator has been shaped by a combination of personal experiences and career milestones. Growing up with a keen interest in mathematics, I pursued a double major in mathematics and anthropology at Wake Forest University. This academic background provided me with a strong foundation in analytical thinking and a deep appreciation for diverse perspectives.

Upon graduating, I embarked on a career in teaching, starting at a local high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. This experience allowed me to refine my teaching skills and connect with students from diverse backgrounds. It also sparked my passion for financial literacy, as I witnessed firsthand the importance of equipping young adults with the knowledge to make informed financial decisions.

Joining Providence Day School in 2004 was a pivotal moment in my career. Here, I found a supportive community that valued innovative teaching methods and encouraged professional development. As I delved into teaching math and finance, I discovered the power of integrating real-world applications into the curriculum, making learning both relevant and engaging for students.

My involvement in conferences, such as the NAIS People of Color Conference and NYSAIS Diversity Practitioners Conference, further enriched my perspective on education and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEIB) initiatives. These experiences have shaped me into an advocate for holistic education that empowers individuals to thrive academically and financially.

Overall, it’s been a combination of curiosity, dedication to lifelong learning, and a passion for making a positive impact that has led me to where I am today—a committed educator and advocate for financial literacy.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

One of the most challenging aspects of my job as a math and finance educator is ensuring that I effectively reach and engage all students, regardless of their background or prior knowledge in financial concepts. This challenge is particularly pronounced in a diverse classroom setting where students may have varying levels of familiarity with financial literacy topics.

To navigate this challenge, I employ strategies that revolve around personalized and inclusive teaching. I tailor my teaching approach to accommodate different learning styles and levels of understanding. This includes incorporating visual aids, interactive activities, and real-world examples to make complex financial concepts more accessible and relatable. I also offer personalized support and guidance to students who may need extra assistance in grasping financial concepts.

Moreover, I ensure that my curriculum reflects diverse perspectives and experiences, making connections to students’ cultural backgrounds and real-life financial situations. This helps create a more inclusive learning environment where all students feel valued and represented. Additionally, I regularly assess student comprehension through formative assessments, quizzes, and discussions, allowing me to identify areas of improvement and adjust my teaching strategies accordingly.

Continuous professional development is also crucial in navigating this challenge. I actively participate in opportunities related to education, finance, and DEIB initiatives. This continuous learning process equips me with new strategies and insights to address challenges effectively and enhance student learning outcomes. Overall, by adopting a student-centered approach, fostering inclusivity, and embracing continuous learning, I strive to navigate the challenges of my role as an educator and advocate for financial literacy.

What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

To Wake Forest graduates venturing into the post-college world, I encourage you to seize the opportunities that lie ahead, particularly in the realm of finance and personal growth.

Firstly, learn about investing early on. Take advantage of the time you have to explore investment options, understand the power of compounding, and develop a diversified portfolio that aligns with your financial goals.

Maintain a growth mindset when it comes to finances. Embrace learning and seek out resources that expand your financial knowledge, whether it’s through books, courses, or workshops. Recognize that financial literacy is for everyone, regardless of background or experience.

Tap into the incredible alumni resources that Wake Forest offers. Leverage networking opportunities, mentorship programs, and career guidance services to enhance your professional and financial journey. Connect with fellow alumni who can offer valuable insights and support as you navigate the world of finance.

Remember, financial success is a journey that requires continuous learning, smart decision-making, and a proactive approach to leveraging resources. By investing in your financial education, maintaining a growth mindset, and tapping into alumni resources, you can set yourself on a path towards long-term financial stability and success.

We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

Through my journey and experiences, I’ve come to deeply understand the significance of networking, not just for professional growth but also for personal development. Authenticity and genuine connections have been the pillars of my networking approach. Learning from my past mistakes, I’ve realized the importance of doing things for the right reasons, as this lays the foundation for meaningful and lasting relationships.

In my career as an educator spanning over two decades, I’ve learned that prioritizing the best interests of families and students is key. When decisions are made with sincerity and a genuine desire to support and uplift others, positive outcomes naturally follow. This philosophy has guided my interactions within my network as well, where I strive to offer value, support, and authentic connections.

Networking isn’t just about building a list of contacts; it’s about fostering meaningful relationships based on trust, mutual respect, and shared values. By staying true to yourself, acting with integrity, and focusing on the well-being of others, the networking journey becomes not only enriching but also fulfilling.

Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

My mentors have been invaluable sources of wisdom, advice, and encouragement throughout my journey. They’ve provided guidance on navigating challenges, making strategic career decisions, and expanding my professional network. Their insights and experiences have been instrumental in helping me grow as an educator, leader, and advocate for financial literacy.

On the other hand, mentoring my students and colleagues has been equally rewarding. Being able to share my knowledge, experiences, and lessons learned has allowed me to make a positive impact on others’ lives. I’ve witnessed the growth and development of my mentees, both professionally and personally, as they gain confidence, skills, and a deeper understanding of their goals and aspirations.

These mentoring relationships have not only enriched my career but also contributed to my personal growth and fulfillment. They’ve reinforced the importance of giving back, supporting others, and fostering a sense of community and collaboration. Overall, mentoring has been a reciprocal and transformative experience that continues to shape my journey and impact those around me in meaningful ways.

What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

For Wake Forest young alumni interested in pursuing a career in teaching, it’s important to recognize the challenges while also embracing the journey with grace and resilience. Teaching is a rewarding yet demanding profession that requires dedication, patience, and continuous learning.

As you embark on this path, immerse yourself in practical experiences early on, such as tutoring, volunteering, or substitute teaching. These experiences offer valuable insights into the dynamics of the classroom and help you develop essential skills.

Invest in your education beyond graduation. Pursue coursework, certifications, or workshops that deepen your understanding of educational theory, pedagogy, and classroom management. Continuous learning is key to growth and success in the teaching profession.

Networking with educators, administrators, and mentors is invaluable. Seek guidance, feedback, and support from experienced professionals who can offer insights and help navigate challenges. Remember that mistakes are inevitable, and no one is perfect. Give yourself grace and learn from these experiences to become a better educator.

Emphasize your passion for making a positive impact in the lives of students. Showcase experiences where you’ve contributed to student success, facilitated meaningful learning experiences, or supported educational initiatives aligned with your values.

Stay informed about current trends, challenges, and innovations in education. Engage in ongoing professional development, attend conferences, and participate in discussions to broaden your knowledge and contribute meaningfully to the field.

Teaching is a journey filled with opportunities for growth, learning, and impact. Embrace the challenges, give yourself grace, and remember that every mistake is a chance to learn and improve. By combining practical experience, education, networking, passion, and resilience, you can embark on a fulfilling and impactful career in education.

What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

Looking ahead in my career, I am pursuing a multifaceted approach to advancing education and financial literacy initiatives. My focus encompasses several key areas.

Firstly, I am dedicated to expanding educational outreach. This involves engaging with a wider audience of students, educators, and communities through various channels such as workshops, seminars, and online resources. Collaborating with schools, organizations, and community groups is essential to promote financial literacy and equip individuals with crucial financial skills.

Additionally, I am deeply committed to advocating for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) within the financial education sector. Integrating DEIB principles into financial literacy programs, supporting initiatives that foster financial empowerment among underrepresented groups, and creating inclusive learning environments are pivotal aspects of this advocacy.

Mentorship and leadership development are integral parts of my career journey. I actively mentor students and colleagues, offering guidance and support as they navigate their educational and professional paths. Concurrently, I seek mentorship from experienced leaders to enhance my leadership skills and gain broader perspectives.

Engaging with audiences through public speaking engagements allows me to share insights and expertise on financial literacy, education, and DEIB initiatives. Speaking at conferences, workshops, and events enables me to contribute to meaningful discourse in these critical areas.

By focusing on these interconnected areas, I aim to drive positive change, empower individuals with essential financial knowledge, promote inclusivity and equity in education, and make a meaningful impact in advancing financial literacy initiatives.

Story published in May 2024. For current updates about Brian, visit his website or Linkedin.