It takes a committed soul to stay in a job for over three decades, but that’s exactly what Ted Beck is.
The Houston Secondary School (HSS) teacher will be clearing his chalkboard for the last time once administrative duties are finished for the year — but not before being recognized by the school community at large as an employee who would always go above and beyond to help the school population. Beck was selected by the graduating class to give the annual speech on behalf of staff for their virtual graduation ceremony held on June 16 and livestreamed to the wider public.
“It was an honour,” he told Houston Today, adding that despite the unconventional ceremony he felt the medium lent itself well to the intimacy of the speech. “I was able to look right at [the students] and speak to them and it made it really special,” he said, noting that even though writing the speech itself came naturally, that the delivery was an extremely emotional one.
Beck said his foray into teaching came as the result of a conversation between him and his mom while they were on their way to the University of British Columbia one day.
“She said, ‘You know Ted, you’re coaching high school basketball … you’re selling children’s shoes at Eatons, have you ever thought about going into teaching?
“And I never had until that moment.”
But he would, beginning a career that spanned just over three decades at HSS and included a wide range of teaching roles, from math to active learning to history. When asked about what kept him in the same hallways for nearly a third of a century, Beck said it was the sense of community — both in HSS and the wider community of Houston.
“I was almost immediately made to feel part of the houston community,” he said of his move to the area. Likewise, he added that all the colleagues he has worked with over the years who shared his passion for helping kids learn also kept him in the region.
While many of those years were filled with wonderful memories, Beck said his last year — particularly the last three months of the school year while COVID-19 heavily-impacted class proceedings — would be marked as one of learning.
“I said to some people in late April that I felt like I was in my first month of teaching,” he said with a laugh, adding that while he found the online teaching platforms difficult to learn at first that the whole situation also provided lots of opportunities for discussions surrounding online teaching models.
“I’ve learned a great deal about delivery online and it sparked some professional discussions with teachers here,” he said. “We’d have conversations around issues in online teaching and learning, so in that respect I’ve learned more about teaching.”
In terms of retirement plans, Beck said he plans to pursue a mix of professionally-related (such as teaching on call and training teachers who are just starting out within the district) and personal hobbies, from golf to fishing to cross country skiing.
He said he will miss the students’ infectious energy the most, adding that while he might have been the teacher he still feels he learnt a great deal from his students throughout the years.
“I would say they [taught] me that they deserve a teacher who can give their best,” he said. “Every kid that walks in the door … they deserve our best.”
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