“Students often ask why I chose English when math would be easier. Just because something is easier, doesn’t mean it is what you want or better. Do want you love; fight for what brings you joy and what is right.” Becky Yoder
While we love all of our FIRST mentors and volunteers, we’d like to highlight the fact that not all FIRST mentors are programmers or engineers. There is so much value in being part of this program! You’ll see people in FIRST from all different types of backgrounds. We connected with Becky Yoder, an english teacher and lead mentor of FRC7198 Fearsome Gears, about her motivations to become part of the #FINFAM. Her responses were inspiring – they tell their own story. Check it out.
How did you get involved with FIRST?
I have been a mentor for FIRST for 2.5 years. I became involved because my son was interested in the rookie season at Twin Lakes High School and wanted to explore it as an option.
I was also friends with our welding teacher who was asked to start the team. She kept asking me if I wanted to help – I kept answering no. One day she asked if I wanted to go on a Field Trip to Purdue of Boiler Battle Bot. I did and then I was hooked on the entire concept of FIRST robotics. The program is amazing and teaches the students so many lessons beyond technology.
How did your team start?
Our welding teacher was approached by students, the board, and Andy Baker about starting a Robotics Team. My son was interested in joining Robotics and Mrs. Rosenbaum asked for my help, so the journey began.
As I became more and more involved, I fell in love with FIRST. I witnessed phenomenal emotional and technical growth – in both my child and the rest of our students. Then when I really opened my eyes I noticed how I grew and the other mentors grew. That is the heart of FIRST…it makes you better. I became lead mentor because I see how FIRST effects lives in a positive way and creates opportunities for inclusion and graciousness.
As a mentor, what do you specialize in?
Well, I cannot say that I specialize in one thing.
I am an English teacher, so public speaking and preparing for judges are strengths…but I like people, and I value what every individual brings to the table. I let people both mentors and students shine. I want to find a place for everyone and plan ahead to help others shine. I am good at letting others know that they are appreciated. I listen and care. I specialize in knowing when other people are special and allowing them to have power to express it…a shared the team…we make a family. Oh yes, it is important to have fun.
Tell us about your career.
I am an English teacher at Twin Lakes High School. I was a special education teacher for 18 years working with students whose goals were graduating high school and possibly continuing their education in college. My job revolves around teaching student independence, coping skills, introspection, and critical thinking skills. I modify my teaching and planning to reach students at their level and move them forward.
Is there anything else significant about your life that you would like to share?
I am twice exceptional which means that I have two identifications or at least I did as I was growing up. I am dyslexic in language and was also identified as gifted in math and science. So I dig science and technology, but love a challenge; and once I could read (in fourth grade), I fell in love with literature.
I also hated school and felt like I did not fit in. Teachers helped with that; I could tell they cared. I wanted to pay that forward. I want to make the world a better place for all people, but especially those who struggle to fit in.
What is your greatest achievement with FIRST?
My greatest achievement, personally, was receiving the Indiana Educator of the Year from FIRST. However, overall; I am so proud of how my students show respect and love for one another, becoming a family. Seeing our robotics family grow in size, compassion, and passion is my greatest joy.
What is your favorite thing about FIRST?
The concept of gracious professionalism and inclusiveness involved in every aspect of FIRST is my favorite. An environment that fosters compassion, creativity, and cooperation gives me hope for our future.
What advice would you give to current or future FIRST participants?
To be patient and not give up. Not everything will be exciting all the time, but the fun will come and the reward of frustration and sometimes boredom cannot be described. When you invest in the program, it will become part of you.
Additional mentor comments:
“I use my extrovertness to guide introverts in learning expression and communication.”
“They love our team because we have fun everyday. We strive to merge something fun in there.”
“Robotics builds character and promotes compassion.”
Bruce Comer (Mentor) He says it works because “we are all able to be kids and know it is important to have fun in what you do.” He wants to create a positive influence in kids’ lives as well.