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From Mars to the Classroom

OU Alumni Eman

Feature Story

From Mars to The Classroom

An OU alumna and passionate educator brings her experiences from NASA into the classroom

 

“One thing people don’t know about me is that I always wanted to be an astronaut,” said Eman Beck, smiling broadly.

 

 

OU Alumni, Eman Beck
OU Alumni, Eman Beck
OU Alumni, Eman Beck

Eman is a University of Oklahoma alumni whose journey at OU took her from chemical science labs, to international space conferences, to teaching students at Norman High School.

“I had a particular class where I could just tell that the students didn’t like each other, and I thought that was only because they didn’t really know each other,” she said. When Eman perceived this subtle tension between her students, she facilitated a community-building activity in hopes they would soften and feel more comfortable collaborating in class. In this instance, Eman had them play two truths and a lie.

Eman Beck

The game is fairly simple. You say three things about yourself. Two are true and one is a lie. Everyone playing has to discern which of the statements is the lie. They went around the classroom until they got back to Eman. She told them her facts, one of which was, “I’ve driven a $12 million vehicle.”

Her students erupted at this. “There’s no way Mrs. Beck!” they said, unanimously agreeing that this was the lie. But it was the truth.

Eman was one of a select few students chosen to participate in the NASA Space Grant, a mentorship program aimed at enhancing science and engineering education. During the program, she attended an international space conference that included VIP tours of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

That $12 million vehicle Eman drove? It was the Mars Rover.

“I kept pestering the driver with questions, asking what’s this and what's that and why are these wheels like this,” Eman said.

Finally, the driver facilitating the tour said, “I’ll just show you.” He pushed a button next to her console, and the joystick that controls the rover switched over to her. Eman is now one of a handful people in the world to have driven the Mars Rover.

Her students were in disbelief. “I felt like they had newfound respect for me,” she said, laughing.

It was a teachable moment for her class. “Those types of experiences are rare. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t asked those questions. I told my students to always ask questions. Always be curious,” she said. The majority of space grants in the United States serve inservice teachers, but the Oklahoma Space Grant is one of the few that serves future educators. 

“The college of education definitely places its students in a position to gain valuable experiences. They have partnerships with many organizations and the NASA space grant is one of them,” Eman said.

 

Along with unique affiliations and partnerships, the college of education also offered an innovative program that helped Eman pursue her degrees. Eman started at OU with a degree in chemical science, but after she had her daughter, going into health science didn’t seem as feasible with plans she had for her family. “I learned about the TE-PLUS program. It is a very innovative, probably one of the best programs that the OU College of Education offers.”

Eman Beck

The TE-PLUS program allows students who are earning degree outside the college of education to be traditionally certified in education simultaneously.

“It’s great because it gives you that freedom to graduate with your degree, while also getting all the necessary training that you get to understand classroom management, child psychology, all the different practices on how to teach students,” she explains.

Not only was Eman given the academic flexibility she needed, but thanks to the Debt-Free Teachers program at OU, she was given financial freedom to pursue teaching without reservation.

“If it wasn’t for the debt-free teachers program, I may not have actually pursued the degree. That alone is doing so much to keep great teachers in Oklahoma.”

Eman Beck

Eman is an educator Oklahoma would sorely miss if she were to leave. She’s passionate about her students and the subject matter she teaches. She’s a perpetual student, staying curious, asking questions, and driving Mars Rovers when she has the chance.

“All the education in the world is nothing without experience,” she said.

 

With innovative programs, prestigous partnerships, and debt-free programs, the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education attracts and retains incredible educators like Eman. Flexibe programs allow students to pursue degrees outside of the college and still be traditionally certified, and the debt-free program helps keep outstanding teachers in Oklahoma. Becasue of these unique opportunities, support, and Eman's hard work, she is positioned to invest in the lives of thousands of students and the future of Oklahoma.