Beck to the future
How Latin teacher navigated twisting career path to upper school
Some people have a calling to specific work early on and feel they have a calling in college. But most importantly it is how they view the job that they are called to. Some are called to teach because its a job that attracts people who like to learn like Latin Teacher Johanna Beck.
Beck grew up in Pierre, South Dakota. She went to undergrad at St Benedict College in St Joseph, Minn., where she majored in biology and classical languages (Greek and Latin). After graduating, she took a few years off and became a house painter in Colorado, and then for a year, she worked at a bookstore. She entered a graduate program in wildlife conservation at the University of Minnesota before switching to classics.
“I feel like I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Beck. “I have two little sisters, and I always was trying to teach them something… I also did lots of summer jobs, growing up like that had to do with education like working with young kids.”
She loves learning and being surrounded by people who also love to learn. She still loves challenging herself by trying to learn new things. She had lots of supporters but her biggest inspirations were her high school Latin teacher and her undergraduate and graduate school professors.
Another influence was Michelle Vitt, Minnehaha’s middle school Latin teacher. Beck went to some meetings as an undergrad student where she met Vitt, and when the opportunity came later to work with Vitt she took it. Her husband, Tim, also a classics specialist, has been a huge supporter of her career, and, Beck said, her dad has been there all along, always helping her and seeing the bright side. Beck said she has always felt the need to teach, but in terms of what to teach, that was not clear. She eventually chose Latin over biology through activities and events.b
“It was kind of a series of events that led up to it,” she said. “The first year in graduate school, I was in wildlife conservation, and I had set up a project that I was going to work on about woodpeckers in northern Minnesota, and the land that I was supposed to use for my research fell through.” It was a very disheartening experience.
“I just thought, ‘well maybe it’s a sign, I
will try something new,’” she said. “I talked to the classics department and they let me in, and then a year into graduate school, I was teaching their Greek classes to their undergrads, and I thought, ‘I love this!’”
She then received a fellowship to study in Greece for a year, which opened her eyes and she connected it to students and how they can use ancient language to open doors and make sense of things today.
The last thing that impacted her was being surrounded by other teachers who love to teach because she said if she didn’t have that community, it would be hard on her. Some
years for her are harder to teach, but with the support of the faculty, staff, and administration, and with enthusiastic students, she gets through it.
Just as she has been influenced and supported by family, friends, and colleagues, Beck has been a major influence on her students and her influence will continue for years to come.
“I like how Mrs. Beck builds a personal relationship with her students,” said junior Elliott Wycoff. “I like the way she teaches. She doesn’t punish you but instead redirects you on the right path.”