HMS teacher helped students understand their worldThere are lots of things retiring educator Becky Lee will miss about teaching science at the Hudson Middle School but there is something she won’t.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
There are lots of things retiring educator Becky Lee will miss about teaching science at the Hudson Middle School but there is something she won’t.
For more than three decades students have brought some amazing things they’ve found into her classroom — most of them dead.
“They love to bring in things they find and show them to me. They are fascinated and while it isn’t always pleasant, it can lead to some good discussion.”
Lee has been a teacher for 35 years, 34 of them in Hudson. She was hired by then middle school principal Bill Hickox who she remembers fondly. “There was a joke in those days that he never hired anyone taller than he was. I will always be grateful to him for hiring me.” She has taught everything from math to reading to social studies periodically over the years but her passion has been science.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and I think I was drawn to science because of the hands-on nature of it. That, and the fact that science is basic to just about everything in life. Students get this. They are so curious and interested and they are exposed to so much more about science in popular culture these days,” said Lee.
Lee has seen many changes in the way science is taught at the middle level but she is most excited about the recent “inquiry-based learning.” Working well beyond a simple textbook, Lee said teaching and learning science isn’t about teachers asking questions and students dishing back answers.
“The students through their study and observations do both themselves — ask the questions and find the answers. There is a lot of group work and that is perfect for studying science. We have something called ‘Newton’s Toy Box,’ which includes all kinds of activities and experiments that test Newton’s Laws. You really can’t teach that out of a book.”
Lee said she has never really been aware of a gender gap in her science classes as some educators have suggested. Girls in her classes have been as curious and as capable as the boys. “Science is for everybody. I have always expected every student in my class to participate and because they do so much in groups and cooperatively, everyone gets in on the act.”
Lee said one of her favorite things to do in the classroom is sit back and listen while her students are at work. “It is wonderful to see them in action, listen to their conversation and see how hard they work to get the answers they need. I love to sit back and watch them work.”
Lee has always taught sixth grade and she likes the age. She describes sixth-graders as still young enough to enjoy everything they do. That first year in middle school is an exciting one for them. “They are really ready to leave the elementary level. They can handle a little more freedom and a little more responsibility. It’s their parents who aren’t always ready for that next step.”
Lee said her students love to talk and are pretty good conversationalists if given the change. She has 120 student this year and she works hard to know as much about them as possible, a goal all HMS teachers share.
But Lee said that the increased enrollment of the school, with students taking classes outside of their “house” and “teachers on carts” without homerooms, is making that mission more of a challenge. And for the first time, she has students in her advisory or homeroom that she doesn’t have in class. “You definitely feel the difference, especially when you are out of your own classroom. This building has always been like a family and it still is but you can feel the strain.”
When asked about advice she’d give new teachers, Lee would encourage them to seek out a mentor. She remembers Marie Badman, a veteran teacher who helped her in Lee’s early teaching career. “I learned so much from her. Take advantage of all that knowledge. It will make things so much easier.”
As for the parents of her students, she advocates taking an active interest in what they are doing every day. “Ask questions. They won’t always give you much of an answer at first but keep talking. In raising my own daughter I learned how to ask the kind of question that would get more than a one word response. Ask them to show you what they are working on. Engage them in real conversation.”
As for students, it may sound cliché but still is her best advice. “Do your best.” But she elaborated. “That means asking for help from teachers. That is what we’re here for. I think so many students are nervous about approaching a teacher. We don’t always know if a student is struggling but there is so much we can do to help if we do.”
Lee, who is married to retired Hudson teacher Don “Pinky” Lee, said she plans to spend time with her husband and grandchildren, reading and attending Minnesota Gopher games. But even as she looks forward to retirement she knows she will miss her colleagues, some she has taught with almost the beginning, and her students. “It should be interesting this fall. I don’t know what it will be like without the kids.”
Lee will be recognized at the district’s annual retirement and recognition dinner next month.