By Ariel Kaplan.
Autumn Becker, a first-year science teacher at Sharon High School, is packing her bags and leaving for New York City to embark on the next chapter of her life.
Ms. Becker joined the SHS family this past year after attending Emmanuel College, where she double majored in biology and secondary education.
After graduation, she knew that she wanted to stay in Massachusetts, and so she began her job search.
“I interviewed at a few schools in nearby towns, but was drawn to Sharon because of its reputation for academic excellence and the feel of community I got when I entered the building,” Becker said.
A part-time faculty member for SHS, Ms. Becker taught two classes of 11th grade biology at both the honors and standard levels. She says that this was a perfect fit for her first year of teaching.
“I absolutely loved teaching these courses. While overall I love science, I am most passionate and excited about biology. I also thought the grade level was a good fit for me. 11th graders are willing to have fun and participate, but also have a sense of seriousness about their academics that I can appreciate,” Becker said.
Junior Lyla Hyman, a member of Ms. Becker’s biology class, says that she will miss her willingness to constantly give help to her students.
“She is persistent on giving help with any assignments and is always considerate if you need more time for homework or a test,” Hyman said.
Ms. Becker adds that she is extremely grateful for the overwhelming amount of support provided to her by the SHS community.
“My colleagues and students have gone above and beyond to help welcome and support me. I couldn’t imagine a more nurturing community for me to start my teaching career at,” she said.
Although Ms. Becker says that she is sad to leave her students and teammates at Sharon High School, she is more than ready for a new chapter in her life.
“It’s incredibly bittersweet. The decision to leave Sharon by no means came easily, but I am very excited to see what the future holds for me,” said Becker.
Specifically, Ms. Becker says that she is most looking forward to learning new things.
“As a teacher, I really do feel like I’m a lifelong learner whether that be learning new teaching techniques, or immersing myself in biology content that I wasn’t exposed to in college. Teaching is a thrilling profession, and there is always something more to learn and improve on,” she said.
With that said, Ms. Becker has decided to attend Columbia’s Teachers College because she feels that it is a place where she can both grow as an individual, and become a better teacher. When applying to her program, she had to write a personal statement, submit her GRE scores, and submit letters of recommendation.
She says that while it was a pretty general application process, the most meaningful piece of the application was her personal statement.
“In the process of writing it, I was challenged to reflect on myself as an educator and identify what was most important to me in my classroom. The majority of the statement was focused on how in my classroom I strive to create an environment that encourages students to explore and contemplate science in an applicable manner that matters to them outside of the classroom,” Becker said.
Ms. Becker adds that in her own experience within the science classroom, she only felt challenged to memorize excessive amounts of information and lacked the necessary connections to make the material meaningful to her. She says that she tries to make this different for her students.
“As a science teacher, it’s my goal to always emphasize the connections that the content has to everyday life. In my lessons, I attempt to move away from the traditional methods of teaching science, and the techniques I grew up experiencing, including note taking and recall of facts on tests,” she said.
Instead, Becker says that she tries to incorporate student participation and critical thinking as much as possible, and attempts to do so with POGILs, EDPuzzles, and other hands on activities.
She added, “While I’m nowhere near I want to be, it was through writing my statement of purpose that I was able to focus myself and my ambitions in the classroom.”
Junior Kiki D., another student of Ms. Becker’s, says that she appreciated her countless efforts to make learning biology a more enjoyable experience.
“Ms. Becker led us through power points, gave us labs, and played videos that were both interesting and extremely helpful when the class was confused on a subject. Her passion for biology is tremendous, and she never failed to teach us biology in a relevant way in which we could use outside of the classroom,” she said.
Ms. Becker will be teaching at a charter school when she moves to New York City. She says that at this point, she’s only been accepted into the charter network and hasn’t been placed at a specific classroom or location yet. However, it’s possible that she’ll be teaching at the elementary or middle school level.
“While I’m licensed to teach middle and high school students, I’m excited about the possibility of teaching elementary for a change,” she said.
In regards to the kids she’ll be teaching, the schools are generally located in underprivileged areas, so she imagines that her experience with students will be much different than at Sharon High.
“While I’ve found many aspects of my teaching experience at Sharon rewarding and fulfilling, I’m looking forward to making an impact on urban education,” said Becker.
Ms. Becker is enrolled in a two-year program, and says that she doesn’t have any definite plans for post-graduation.
“Currently, I’m still processing the fact that my dream of living in New York City is about to become a reality,” she said.