Airport Heights Elementary School teacher Emily Becker brings her love of the nature into her sixth-grade classroom.
“I get to teach them about things like photosynthesis and this idea that, ‘You know plants breathe out oxygen that we breathe in.’ It’s really like a revelation to them and that’s really fun for me,” explained Becker.
Her first career was as an interpretive park ranger for the National Park Service. She worked at Wind Cave National Park, Badlands National Park and Denali National Park. During her first summer in Alaska, she met someone who planned to teach in rural Alaska.
“And I went to visit him in a village and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’” said Becker. “So I went back to school and got my teaching certificate and I taught in the Bush for a while before moving to Anchorage.”
Becker has now taught in Alaska for 18 years. Elementary school students are some of her favorite.
“They’re awake to the world and yet they have so much they want to learn. So it’s just really fun to be with them,” she said.
However, her students would tell you that they’re the ones who get to have all the fun. Becker keeps her kids active in the morning with activities that work their body and mind.
“We know that the best exercise for the brain, is exercise. So any time I can have kids up and moving around to accomplish a learning goal is really, I think helps me succeed in helping them learn,” said Becker.
She also employs a technique that incorporates art into her lessons. This month, the students are learning about the ecosystem. To help them better understand it, Becker has them draw or paint an image of the natural world around them and write a story to go with it. Her methods have led to a successful career as an educator.
“There’s really no secret. I think it’s hard work and perseverance and making a lot of mistakes,” explained Becker. “You know when I think back to my original students I think, ‘Wow, you know I made so many mistakes.’ And I feel really grateful to them that I got to keep teaching and learning and I keep persevering and trying new things and learning all the time.”
Becker is also a master gardener and sponsor of the school’s gardening club.
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