Robert E. Becker is known at East Middle School to student and fellow faculty as 'Tech Beck' because of his, among other things, technological expertise.He has taught at East since 1999, and he teaches industrial and technology education, keyboarding and video broadcasting. This video broadcasting 8th grade class runs East Studio One (ESl), the school's closed-circuit TV system that broadcasts live a miscellany of items and information (school news, announcements, sports scores and highlights, yearbook advertising, Character Counts, flag salute, etc.). Class and teacher thus occupy center stage every morning at the start of classes. A 1993 graduate of CSU-Fresno, Becker hasn't taught anywhere else but here. He says, intrinsically, his is a very rewarding job. He's aware of the shortage of qualified engineering and technological talent in the U.S. "In fact, the U.S. is actually importing engineers from foreign countries," he said, "similar to the shortage of doctors." "I feel lucky to be in a position to affect students' lives and steer them in the right direction," Becker continued. It's easy to see why Becker feels this way. In addition to his responsibility for "maintaining technology" at the school site which includes maintaining personal student accounts, the so-called 'accelerated reader' program, five classroom laptop (mobile) carts, and the brand-new 40-computer Kiwanis Lab (used by faculty and students alike), he is the administrator of the school website as well as the school's Technology Club (which meets every Thursday). "If a situation arises here that we can't fix, we can look for assistance by the district office," he said. His industrial and technology education course covers the following areas of study: aerodynamics, architecture, business graphics, electricity, engineering, music development, woodworking, and the already-mentioned video production, taught in learning modules. At one session, a couple of students were making switches, another small group was working with lie detector sets, the graphic design module was building airplanes and rockets, and the woodworking group had just finished a floor plan as well as a city zoning map. By engaging in hands-on projects, the kids are learning practical skills that will help enhance people's lives. "My kids get prepared for [further] tech education in the U.S.," he said. Becker feels he should compliment the assistance provided by special ed teacher Vicki Arosteguy, who gives of her time in the technology area. The same goes to school staff, he said: "They're very patient over there." At present the school is in the grip of the East Idol competition, where 12 finalists will be selected out of 27 student try-outs. Their images and entries get streamed online and broadcast on ESl. Finally in May, the three finalists will appear live in a school rally to determine the winner. It promises to be one of the most exciting events on campus, said Becker. Meanwhile, there are other simultaneous, relatively minor programs to amuse the student population: "Student Library," "Student Swap" and "I Love Lucy." Becker's programs enjoy the full support of Principal Brent Shubin, who in the same breath says, "We are strong in science." Shubin, who has a bachelor's from CSU-Long Beach and a master's in education from Azusa Pacific, at the same time enumerated what he deems the characteristics of a good principal: first, he/she should be an instructional leader; secondly, he/she should be a good manager; thirdly, he/she should have a vision for what a school can accomplish; and fourth, he/she should always look for ways to improve things. He said East Middle has had the top API score district-wide for the past seven years until this year when Griffiths Middle beat it by one point. Becker's wife Susan also teaches middle school in Garden Grove. They have a two-year old son, Edward.
********** Published: April 16, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 52