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Sabercat Stories: Jennifer Bekken

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Sabercat Stories: Jennifer Bekken

Jennifer Bekken teaches science, and shares her passions for travel and learning.

Jennifer Bekken teaches science, and shares her passions for travel and learning.

Jennifer Bekken

Jennifer Bekken teaches science, and shares her passions for travel and learning.

Jennifer Bekken

Jennifer Bekken

Jennifer Bekken teaches science, and shares her passions for travel and learning.

Anna Henning, Activities Beat Leader

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Earth Systems Science and Pre-AP Biology teacher Jennifer Bekken has taught at Fossil Ridge High School for nine years. She has been back from maternity leave since the beginning of February, after having her first son, Lander. She is a traveller, a mentor, and a passionate learner.

Throughout high school, Bekken was a self-described “art and science kid.” She had ambitions to go to art school. However, after taking AP Art senior year and getting burnt out from too much art, she worried about not enjoying it anymore if it was a career. She decided to keep art and painting as a hobby, and go into medical school.

Bekken attended University of Michigan in the pre-med program. She got to study abroad for a semester in Italy, which was one of her favorite places to go and she hopes to go back someday. In Italy, she was thrilled to paint again, as Michigan would not let her take art classes with her degree.

Jennifer Bekken
Bekken and her husband Joel at the Torres del Paine in Chile. A few years ago, Bekken took a gap year to travel to some of her dream destinations; one of them being Chile.

In her senior year before graduating, Bekken realized going into the medical field might not be for her. She had a cousin also in a pre-med program who was talking about all the steps after getting an undergraduate degree before beginning a career. In that moment, Bekken realized she would miss a lot of things she had always wanted to do if she continued that path. “In my head, I was like, oh my gosh! I have way too many things I want to do in my twenties and so many trips I want to take that I won’t do if I go straight into med school,” Bekken said. In college, Bekken volunteered with a mentorship ministry and fell in love with working with teenagers and contributing to their lives. She said, “I always thought I would teach later on in life. I had to think in that moment, I’m going to flip-flop the two. I want to teach first and be able to be a part of the lives of teenagers, and love science, and I’ll go back and do medicine later on.”

By going into teaching after graduation, Bekken would have the flexibility to go on adventures and dedicate time to things besides her career. During the switch senior year, she had to take a few quick science classes she had not planned on for the medical field—but were needed now that she planned to become a teacher. Bekken graduated with an undergraduate degree in brain behavior and cognitive science. After graduation, she went back to school quickly to get a master’s degree and teaching license at Colorado State University. She then began her career at Fossil.

One of Bekken’s favorite aspects of teaching is getting to know her students and spending time with them. She takes pride in being a part of something bigger than herself by investing in students; in doing it not for herself but for others. She also has a great passion for learning and believes in the importance of education. Bekken said, “I love learning. [When teaching] I feel like I’m constantly learning and feeding that passion.”

Although she loves her job, some aspects of teaching are not as enjoyable for Bekken. She does not like grading, and claims lab reports are the worst. Besides that, she sometimes struggles to connect with her students while teaching science. Since her classes are fast-paced, she does not have as much time for building relationships as she initially hoped going into teaching. She sometimes envies art or physical education teachers because they have more time to connect with students. In her first few years at Fossil, she thought, “My students don’t even know that I care about them,” and worried about being able to make an impact.

I hope teenagers have a more accurate view of themselves, and their value and their worth. Knowing that I care about them isn’t just me, it’s knowing that they are worth caring about.”

— Jennifer Bekken

Despite the demanding curriculum of science, Bekken hopes students will learn a lot from her—not just in science. Bekken believes education is the gateway to anything and can lead students to their passions and futures. She loves watching students get to pursue their dreams and reach goals, and hopes that she has done her part to equip them for the future. Additionally, Bekken empowers students by making them feel loved and important. She said, “I hope teenagers have a more accurate view of themselves, and their value and their worth. Knowing that I care about them isn’t just me, it’s knowing that they are worth caring about.”

When asked what she would do if she was not a teacher, Bekken replied with “a million things.” She still wants to work in medicine, neuroscience, or nutrition. She still wants to continue to work with others and build relationships even if she is not teaching, therefore she does not want to go into research. If she could have any job, she would want to get paid to learn or get paid to travel the world. She is an avid photographer, and still loves to think of her childhood dream of becoming a photographer for National Geographic.

Jennifer Bekken
Bekken and her husband on top of Villarrica, one of Chile’s most active volcanoes. They had to wear gas masks due to the molten lava.

In her summers, Bekken travels a ton. She used to guide backpacking trips prior to getting married. She now spends a lot of time by Horsetooth Reservoir, as she and her husband moved intentionally to be near it. She takes the time off to visit her best friends out of town, and her great-great-aunt. She is looking forward to staying home this year for a more mellow summer because of her new baby, and the break from busyness.

Bekken has many interests outside of school which are currently evolving. Being outside is one of her favorite things, enjoying activities such as hiking, running, paddleboarding, and skiing. Most of her family lives in town, and she spends a lot of time with them. She watches a lot of sports, mainly football, basketball, and baseball. Bekken loves reading nonfiction and historical fiction to learn about cultures and decades that are not her own. Her favorite novel is Beach Music. In the past few months, Bekken has fallen in love with being a mom, saying, “Most recently, I just like to hang out with my baby.”

Jennifer Bekken
Lander’s hair sticks up in a “natural mohawk,” and he now smiles a lot.

Bekken recently gave birth to her first child, Lander. When asked to describe him, she immediately replied with “he’s so cute.” He is a little over three months old now, and very active. He loves kicking when he is laying down and constantly moves. He has wild hair that forms a kind of “natural mohawk.” He is now smiling, which Bekken is very happy with, and she lights up just talking about Lander smiling. She also says their laughs are similar. Bekken has had a wonderful time bonding with Lander, and she says he is a relaxed and happy baby.

When she found out she was pregnant, Bekken claims she was “more nervous than excited” at first, but in the last month of pregnancy she became “more excited than nervous.” Leading up to her absence in November for her son’s birth, Bekken felt “like her head was in ten places at once.” She had to balance making substitute plans, taking care of herself, teaching current lessons, and connecting with students. She felt very busy between getting her house ready, family ready, and heart ready for her first child. Despite the busyness, she had a wonderful pregnancy full of excitement to meet her son.

Returning back to Fossil in February has been both difficult and good for Bekken. She had a difficult time leaving Lander after she had bonded with him. The transition between leaving teaching and returning were smoother than she had expected, and she found a lot of support in those around her. Although she wants to continue to work, she now understands why some moms stay at home with their kids—she misses him while teaching, and wants to be involved in his life.

For Bekken, the experience of becoming a mom is emotional. She said it has been “way better than I ever could expected,” with fears of not being happy with a kid. Growing up, having kids was never a dream of hers, and through her pregnancy she worried she would not enjoy being a mom. However, she has had an amazing experience, and is surprised by how much she enjoys it. Bekken has also found contentment in settling down her life. “It’s slowed me down, I’ve always been a ‘go-er’ and a ‘do-er’ in my life. It’s made me slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy the simple things more,” Bekken claimed.

When asked about the future, Bekken found herself uncertain. She has always been a big dreamer with a bucket list to match, but now she is at a different point in her life. She feels very grateful that she has gotten to do a lot of what she has hoped for in life, and is ready to settle down. She is content with where she is in life now, and does not have too many future plans. However, she knows “I always have to travel.” She loves being married because she can support her husband in his dreams—helping him and encouraging him in what he has planned. Bekken has high hopes for Lander, wanting him to stay healthy and be sweet as he grows up.  

You are inherently, deeply valuable. I hope that you know it, and believe it, and live out of it.”

— Jennifer Bekken

And, of course, Bekken will continue in her passion for learning and always wanting to learn more. She wants to continue to connect with her students and hopes that she can help them get where they want to be in life. When asked of her advice for students, she said, “You are inherently, deeply valuable. I hope that you know it, and believe it, and live out of it. Be who you need to be. Learn what you need to learn to be able to do what you need to do so you can live life to the full.”

About the Writer
Anna Henning, Activities Beat Leader

Anna Henning is working as a Copy Editor and Activities Beat leader for Etched in Stone. The sophomore has been a part of the staff since freshman year...

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