Lasting Influence -- Week 6

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Friday, July 7, 2017


Justine Boecker

The adventures and thoughts of a two-day work week

My parents and my brother and sister flew in last Friday, so I had a full week of family adventures (See pics below). They saw all the sights. It was especially cool to spend Independence Day in Washington DC. There were more people than you can imagine, but it is the nation’s capitol on the nation’s birthday, and it was all worth fireworks over the Mall. I enjoyed sharing DC with my family. However, they weren’t quite as in love with it as I am. My brother announced after a couple days that he would never live here. He doesn’t like the city and all the people. I, on the other hand, would move here in a heartbeat if the right career opportunity was offered.

I was in the office on Saturday and Sunday earlier this week working with a group of master teacher leaders. One characteristic of master teachers and teacher leaders is a significantly positive community and mentoring experience. Taking advantage of this influence, we were working on developing a mentoring and induction program for new physics teachers. I was able to contribute a lot to the conversations as I am exactly in their target audience; they are looking at the summer before and after the first year of teaching. I know I am only in the very earliest stages of my career. However, I can already reflect on the importance of mentors getting me as far as I am now. In college I had two significant and influential mentoring experiences that began my freshman year, and I have been thankful for them to continue to mentor me even in the last couple months in DC. In light of my mentor reflections this past week, I want to dedicate the rest of this post to those people who have influenced my life more than I could ever have expected.

The first was my manager at the Child Development Center at Bethel, Glynnis Maki. I remember the first time I met her on job orientation day before everyone else even moved in my freshman year. I was just another student in the large group wide-eyed and nervous, and she was intimidating. For the next half a semester, I didn’t speak with her at all as I worked in a different room. However,half way through the semester, I decided to pick up an extra shift that someone else had to drop and it happened to be in her room. This decision was a turning point in the rest of my college career. After I realized Glynnis wasn’t quite as intimidating as I first thought, I asked for a summer job. It led to my full time job for three summers in a row. The first summer was important for me to grow my confidence as I realized I was trusted, but Mrs. Maki and others, and had the skills to be a teacher. My second two summers were about trying new things. I had the privilege of co-teaching in the toddler room with Glynnis full time. She was so incredibly supportive of my ideas of STEM in early childhood no matter how crazy. She, of course, knew that some of the stuff I was trying wasn’t going to work, but she let me try it anyway. She also served as my primary life advice giver, listener and tick saver. Now, reflecting after graduation, she is one of the closest friends I made in my four years at college and one of my biggest supporters as I move on. There are very few people that know me as well as she does, and she still loves me. I’m incredibly thankful to have her to guide me through the moose of our lives in the past and the future. ;)

Second is my advisor and professor Dr. Patricia Paulson. She drastically influenced the direction of my life. To be completely transparent, I was an incredibly high maintenance advisee from the very beginning. I asked for multiple meetings within the first two weeks at Bethel trying to figure out my four year plan. (Yes I needed my whole four years planned out in the first two weeks) From the minute I told her I wanted to do both physics and elementary, she knew that I would. It took a significant amount of time that first semester in her office working out how I would graduate in four years with the two majors, and I only got to be more high maintenance as I moved through college. I spent even more hours and a hundred emails troubleshooting scheduling issues to actually graduate on time. It took 18 credit semesters that I made worse by having four jobs, it took summer classes, and it took several emotional breakdowns, but we did it. Throughout the four years, I had countless people doubt my abilities to do it. I had a couple people even attempt to persuade me out of the double major. With these influences, I would not have made it without Patti’s confidence. Just Patti believing I could do it and my own stubbornness was what I needed to keep going. Beyond simply completing my undergraduate education, she taught me or directly supported me in developing the majority of what I know about STEM education. Beyond academics she modeled gentleness and grace in all situations.  She showed me love, compassion, professionalism and a christian perspective on my career that will follow me for the rest of my life. Because I made it through college and gained the perspectives and skills, I am now here in DC. Thankfully Patti’s influence didn’t stop when I walked across that stage and got my diploma. Since I got here, she has continued taking my phone calls in the evenings when she should be with their family, texting me at all hours of the night and responding to my lengthy emails of deep insights and struggles. Looking on how integral she has been in developing who I am, I do not doubt that my life has been specifically designed to have Patti in it.

While I have chosen to highlight these two longstanding and consistent mentors, I also want to say thank you to the many others, specifically Jamie Kovacs and Sue Wilberts, who have played a mentoring role in my life. Thank you for helping to develop me into the strong, and hopefully influential, person I am becoming.

Justine Boecker