Special Veterans Day Spotlight - Bev Berekian

Special Veterans Day Member Spotlight: Bev Berekian

Thank you Bev for your service to our country and your ongoing dedication to the science community.

Tell us about yourself (your military career, science education career, and anything else you would like people to know)
I am currently an 8th Grade Integrated Science Teacher at Ball Junior High School and Adjunct College Instructor at Cerritos College, Cypress College and Santa Ana College. I am in my 12th year teaching Secondary Ed and my 16th year teaching college. I started out teaching Geology at Orange Coast College and I eventually landed teaching 9th Grade Earth Science at Magnolia High School. During my time teaching high school I taught Oceanography, Astronomy, and APES in addition to Earth Science. Teaching came after a couple of previous careers, one of which was time spent in the United States Air Force and USAFR.

During my time on active duty I had the opportunity to live just north of London, England in a place called Bedfordshire. I came back to the United States and had another opportunity to travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where I was stationed for 3 ½ months in 1986. I am very proud to have served my country as all of my grandparents were immigrants from Armenia and I felt like it was my way of giving back. My dad had served in the Army, earned a Purple Heart for taking shrapnel in his leg during WWII, and I think I felt like I honored him as well by serving. I am also very proud and grateful for my career as a teacher! It started with wanting to take care of wayward seals and sea lions which led me to start college in order to get a degree in Marine Biology. I took a geology class my first semester at Irvine Valley College and while my love for marine mammals has continued, my love and fascination of rocks, minerals and the story told by our dynamic Earth won and I went on to get a Bachelor’s Degree from Cal State Long Beach and my Masters Degree from Cal State Fullerton, and then finally to teaching. I continue to advocate for the NGSS and ALL standards for ALL students as a means to ensure equity and access in our classroom. I am especially involved with ensuring equity and access for our LGBTQ+ students, who are often overlooked but are often at high risk for bullying and other issues that may make their success in school more difficult.

What are some similarities between being a science educator and serving in the military?
I think one of the similarities between being in the military and being a science educator is that you have to learn to work with a diverse group of people from various backgrounds, which means there is a lot of cooperation that must take place to have a successful mission. Another similarity is ingenuity! Many times in the military you are solving problems on the fly, and it is the same in teaching. You have to be prepared to pivot when things do not go as planned and find your Plan B.

How can a foundation in STEM and NGSS concepts benefit students who are considering a military career?
The NGSS focuses on giving students the skills they need to identify and solve problems. At the same time, they are often solving these problems by working in teams. This is exactly how the military works – no one is an island and works on their own. You need your team in the military and teaching kids this skill, and especially their own VALUE as a team member is so important. If we send our students out in the world, military or not, with a foundation in STEM they will be better prepared for their future. Plus, there are a lot of jobs in the military that are related to STEM and having those experiences will help them get into some of those fields if they choose.

What is the best thing about being a CASE member?
This is EASY! It is all about networking! I have made some amazing friends through CASE and also collaborators. It is great to see the same folks year after year at our conference and get caught up, even if we haven’t communicated all year long we come together in this space to share ideas. I have learned to be a better presenter and I have found that co-presenting is an awesome way to build relationships. I love that I can go to workshops and get new ideas and immediately take them back to my classroom. I also think that it's great to have a voice through CASE as to what is happening in Science Education in California.

What is your favorite branch of science and why?
Geology of course!! I have both of my degrees in geology but that is not the only reason. Geology tells the history of our planet – and that history is the story of us, of how we got to be here. I particularly love teaching Earth Science because it truly embodies all of that story. Starting with astronomy and the formation of our solar system, looking at all the amazing processes that keep Earth alive to looking at the delicate relationship between Earth and humans.

What fictional character do you most relate to and why?
My favorite fictional characters have always been dogs! Snoopy, Scooby-Doo, Pluto, Goofy, Odie, Marmaduke, Astro, Huckleberry Hound were some of my favorites. I am not sure why except that from my earliest age I remember loving dogs. As an adult, I have spent very little time without at least one dog in my life. I currently have 3 – Xena Warrior Princess (a Dachshund/Doberman mix), Xander Defender of Man (a Dachshund/Pittie mix) and PeeWee O’Herman (ALL Dachshund).

What is your favorite movie or book and why?
I have a few favorite movies, but one of them is the movie Contact because first, it is about space, and second there is a line towards the end of the movie: Dr. Arroway to a group of students – “The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space. Right?”
Some other notables: Bonnie and Clyde, Ice Age, Thelma and Louise and of course – The Wizard of Oz.

Describe CASE in 5 words or less
Supportive, Collaborative, Friendships, Opportunity, Evolving