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By Tesia Galvan
Staff Writer 

Worland Master Teacher awarded to Liz Becher


May 28, 2016

Tesia Galvan

2016 Worland Master Teacher Liz Becher holds up Squidword. Squidword is the "Seventh grade classroom celebrity," Becher says. She made him around the age of her students at summer camp during an ocean-themed week. Since then, the squid was placed in the back of closet. After college, she found him and was going to throw the squid away, but decided to keep him. Then, "Squidword" was born and she has left him hanging in her classroom ever since.

WORLAND – An afternoon with seventh-grade teacher and recipient of the Master Teacher award Liz Becher will give you insight to a classroom environment of fun, learning, respect and positivity.

Becher, who concluded her third year of teaching seventh-grade English at Worland Middle School this past week, was awarded the 2016 Washakie County School District No. 1 Master Teacher award Monday night.

The award is equivalent to a teacher of the year award, but with more specifications from the school board, who gives out the award at their discretion, and Superintendent David Nicholas said the award is given for "a teacher who is a master with relationships and communication with students and parents. Not only when there's a problem, but when there's good and effective work. The biggest thing they look for is student engagement."

And it is student engagement where Liz Becher truly shines.

Her classroom is reflective of her quirky personality and love of learning whether it is Squidword's word of the day, lyrics from her vocabulary raps or out-of-the-box Friday afternoon writing prompts.

Becher, who is a University of Wyoming alumna, said she moved to Casper from Kansas when she was 13, and loves teaching middle school so much because it was a transitional period for her.

"I came to Worland ... in 2013 fresh from college. I did not know anyone. I took a chance on Worland, and they took a chance on me ... and quickly the community of Worland became my second home," Becher said.

She fondly calls her students her children, and said "We all work together to find out strengths and make it a point to celebrate each other. That's my favorite part of the job. I feel by the end of the year, me and my kiddos have established respect ... and that reciprocated learning. I may be the teacher, but they teach so much too."

Surreal experience

"I couldn't believe it. The frog was already in my throat at that point and I had become immensely choked up," Becher said about winning the award. "It was surreal experience."

All of the kids were right in the front and that was the best part, Becher added.

Becher said she was invited to the school board meeting Monday by Worland Middle School Principal Ryan Clark. He told me he wanted me to be his literary representative, Becher said.

"I thought it was strange that all the seventh-grade teachers were there, but I dismissed it," Becher said. "It wasn't until [Don] Bryant said that the teacher had been in the district for three years until things started to slow down for me."

School Board Chairman Don Bryant introduced the Master Teacher Award with a phrase Becher frequently tells her students: "I don't accept this behavior, but I will accept it from you ... I accept you."

Behind Your Back Project

Becher said one of her favorite projects to do with her students is one that was inspired by different activities she's seen on Pinterest.

"I start by asking the students to raise their hand if someone has ever talked behind their back, and the room goes up ... Then she asks them to keep their hand up if it's ever been something hurtful or negative, and the hands stay up," Becher said.

At that point, Becher will individually have students sit on a stool in front of a whiteboard and classmates will walk up and write what they think of that student "behind their back."

She tells them, "You have to sit there and let us talk behind your back and trust us that what we're saying is going to be truthful, and it's how we really feel."

Then after all the messages are written, Becher takes a picture of the students with the messages on the white board and erases it before the students can see. After a week, she gives each student a picture of themselves and for the first time students sees what was said behind their back.

"The things that they come up with are just sensational," she said. "I'll have students come back years later with their crumpled picture that they keep as a reminder on those rough days that this is how they're perceived by their peers."

Becher said her goals are to have the kids remember and focus on the positive, she said. "I really do try to maintain a positive and good climate in here," she added.

Letters to her students

"It's one of my favorite days of the year," Becher said in reference to the day near the end of each school year where she reads her letter out loud to her student's about their progress and creativity.

"In that moment, they know they are more than just a warm body in my classroom ... They know they truly matter and we share a lifelong lasting bond," Becher said.

"People think I'm crazy ... but this is my dream job. I knew it was my dream job the moment I applied. I never have to work a day in my life because ... all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place when I moved here," Becher said.


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