Becky was a magnet for my children’s allowance. Long before she started teaching at the Seed, Becky and her husband Steve had a shop on Mill Avenue. Each Saturday after their dance class, my girls migrated up the stairs to Dollars to spend their weekly allowance. Becky was always cheerful and friendly as she helped them make their purchases. Within a year or so, our paths crossed again, this time at an ASU class where I was a guest speaker.
As Becky worked on her Arizona teaching certification, she soon realized that she wanted to teach differently from how she started out. Hearing about the Seed opened a door for her and once she stepped through that door, she never turned back. Even though she had a Masters degree, Becky chose to be an assistant for two years to make sure she had a grasp of what all was involved in teaching holistically. One of those years was with me. It was a most memorable year, my first year back in the classroom after graduate school in 1988, and it was such a time of deep learning. Becky and I kept a dialogue journal all year. She wrote her questions and thoughts throughout the week, then I’d take it home and respond over the weekend. For years after that, when Becky took over as the 1st grade lead teacher, she used that journal as her “manual” for teaching first grade. Just a few weeks ago Becky mentioned that she still has the journal.
Over the years, Becky has been a key figure in sustaining the Community nursing home project. Year after year, she’s prepared her students with a study of aging to ready them for their monthly visits to their elder friends. She’s collected their stories, delighted in the children’s insights and been inspired by the responses of the residents. Even during the challenging years when her own mother was in a nursing facility, Becky stayed with it because she understood the value of the program for her students.
There are a hundred ways I could describe what has made Becky Lewis an extraordinary teacher. She is kind, humble, ethical and dedicated to her work. One of Becky’s most important qualities is that she’s never stopped being a learner. Any time I’ve given her reading material, she’s followed up not only by reading, but also with a conversation to process it. When we switched to the Common Core Standards two years ago, Becky embraced the change with enthusiasm. She had the same response to our introduction of the STEAM curriculum and has spent the year learning about it. At a time when most teachers entering the latter part of their careers shift to automatic pilot, Becky is still a lively learner.
Becky delights in her students’ learning as well as her own. She’s famous for her “bragging tours,” mini-parades around the school to celebrate her students’ progress. Just this morning she dropped in with two students who have made enormous growth as readers. All three were grinning from ear to ear. Becky knows how to celebrate what matters. Now, as she prepares to step into her next chapter of life, it’s our turn to celebrate her. In years to come the “Becky years” will be among the Seed’s finest.