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Voices from Classroom: This special teacher is an inspiration to students and mentor to colleagues

By Jennifer Nash
Highlands High School

A school is a well-oiled machine. It takes an administration with a vision and leadership capabilities to get the faculty to see the vision and make it a reality. It takes a faculty who can reach all students and inspire them to achieve goals they never thought possible. It takes students who trust in the educational process and those who are leading it.
But it is also possible for one person to make a lasting impression. In my school, that person is Jean Becker. Mrs. Becker teaches Biology and Anatomy. She is strict yet fair. She has high expectations, and not just for the high achieving students.  She cares even when the students do not. And most importantly, she plays the role of “School Mom” to more than just her students.

Jean Becker

In my seven years teaching alongside Mrs. Becker, I have witnessed a lot of moments where I experienced the effect one person can have. Two years ago, in one of many parent meetings, while the rest of a senior’s teachers voiced exasperation and a feeling of helplessness (myself included), Mrs. Becker looked the student in the eyes and said she stays after school every day and would gladly help the student catch up and even offered to come in every Saturday till the student was eligible to graduate. To be clear, this student was in this situation due to her own mistakes, not sickness, surgeries, or gaps in learning. Even the student’s parents were speechless. And a six short weeks later, that student walked across the stage and earned her diploma – with many thanks to Mrs. Becker.
Another, more recent, example was from a few weeks ago when a couple of my AP Literature students came to my class and told me that Mrs. Becker had lectured them in her Anatomy class about their study habits for my class. Of course, I wanted to know more. The lecture began with “All right, guys…now listen…” as many of her lectures do.  Not Biology lectures either — lectures on life. They were studying for a large vocabulary test for my class right before they were to take it, and Mrs. Becker told them that it was only going to be in their short-term memory. She told them that she knew “Mrs. Nash wasn’t asking them to learn those words to forget them ten minutes later.” They admitted she was right. She and I talked later that day on our way to the parking lot. I thanked her for reinforcing what I tell them daily in class. She had been able to get through to them when I clearly had not been able to.

Jennifer Nash

However, the most poignant moment I had with Mrs. Becker was one in which no students were even present. During a meeting last month, our principal was informing the faculty about an active shooting training we would be completing at the end of the year. We did one of these a few years back, and it impacted me deeply. With the news of this upcoming training, though, I began thinking of my son, a kindergartener, who would be in his teacher’s care in a tragic situation like this, how she has children of her own but would be expected to protect mine, and it was too much.

My eyes welled with tears, and try as I might, I couldn’t stop them from coming. The meeting ended a few minutes later, and I was still crying. Mrs. Becker came to console me, and I cried on her shoulder like I would my own mother’s. She assured me that we would be safe – my son would be safe – and the reason is that we all look out for each other and that every student a teacher has in class becomes his or her “kid.” We would protect them like our own. My son’s teacher would protect him like her own.
I know that a school has many moving parts, much like a machine, that have to work in harmony for it to be successful. But I can also say, without a doubt, that our school wouldn’t be the place it is without Mrs. Becker.

Jennifer Nash is an English Teacher at Highlands High School with twelve years teaching experience.  She is the wife of Adam Nash, Assistant Principal of Walton Verona High School and the mom of Hudson and Case.

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