Educator Award: Becky Shapiro Collins, K-6 Science teacher and STEM Coordinator
Although Becky Shapiro didn’t always think she’d be a science teacher, maybe she should have. From an early age, she was leading friends on nature walks through the woods, camping with the Girl Scouts and leading younger scouts, and working as a nature counselor at summer camps. She had an early childhood interest in marine biology, which led to her working as a scuba dive instructor in the Caribbean during college. When she drove through the woods for her interview at WDS in 2011 and saw the school’s location on the water, she knew this would be the place for her to teach and incorporate her love for nature and the ocean into her curriculum. On any given day, you might find her elbow-deep in her intertidal fish tank, strumming her ukulele and singing about the water cycle, or having her sixth graders extrapolate data about invasive crab populations based on crab count surveys on the beach. As the first designated Elementary Science teacher at WDS, she has spent the last 13 years developing and refining an expansive, standards-based, experiential learning curriculum for students in grades K-6. She was instrumental in the construction of the WDS garden ten years ago, and prior to WDS’s partnership with Grow Torah last year, single handedly managed and coordinated its use. Always looking to help the WDS team, she has also filled in as the 7th and 8th grade science teacher on four separate occasions.
In 2014, WDS was issued a grant to develop a STEAM curriculum. Becky spent that summer in various training sessions and returned to build the WDS Maker Space, equipped with 3D printers, a laser cutter, Arduino kits and more. For the past eight years, in addition to incorporating technology into the science curriculum, she has helped facilitate engineering electives for grades 6-8 and coordinate with the elementary teachers to incorporate STEAM projects into their classrooms. Under her direction, each grade from ganon-8th grade has participated in at least one large-scale, project-based STEAM unit per year. As part of WDS’s partnership with CIJE (the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education), Becky has also received continuous professional development in Science and STEM education, including a week-long training in Israel.
Becky is a graduate of Scarsdale High School, the University of Delaware (BA), and Manhattanville College (MPS). She currently lives in Pelham with her family: husband Eric Collins, sons Henry (6), Charlie (4), and daughter Maggie (6 months). Her parents are still in Scarsdale where she grew up and her mother Marcy is her biggest cheerleader as well as critical child care support. Her boys attended Ganon at WDS (Charlie is currently in Ganon Zahav) and it has been a highlight of her career to get to watch them learn and grow in such a warm, welcoming, and beautiful place.