Para-educator gets gift of free college educationLisa Beck will start online classes through the University of Phoenix on May 1 courtesy of the university and South Dakota Teacher of the Year Pat Moller.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Mom’s going back to school. Lisa Beck, 44, who works as a seventh grade para-educator at Mitchell Middle School, will be starting online classes through the University of Phoenix on May 1 courtesy of the university and South Dakota Teacher of the Year Pat Moller.
“I’m pretty emotional and a little overwhelmed,” said Beck, who plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in kindergarten through eighth-grade education.
Moller said he learned in January that the University of Phoenix, which offers its programs online, gave all the states in the nation a similar scholarship. It fell to Moller, as the state’s top teacher, to bestow a full-ride, four-year scholarship to a deserving student.
“It was an awesome gift for an educator,” said Moller, who teaches math at Mitchell Middle School. “That’s what we’re trying to do here, to give every kid the gift of education and knowledge.”
Beck and husband Keith have three children in college, and a fourth is a junior attending Mitchell High School.
“I’ll be the only one not in school,” Keith said, laughing.
Moller said he considered choosing a high school senior for the scholarship, but he was concerned that the online class environment might not be the best for a new high school grad.
On the other hand, the program fit Beck’s needs perfectly.
Having worked with her for five years at the middle school, Moller said he knew her dedication to education.
And with only one child left at home, he knew that she had the time, finally, to pursue a degree.
“I’m just honored that he chose me,” Beck said.
Beck attended college briefly after high school and picked up some credits she hopes will transfer, but she didn’t value education then as much as she does today.
“It wasn’t real to me then, but it certainly is now. It’s like I’ve been given another opportunity,” she said.
Moller said his only stipulation was that Beck enroll in a program to become an educator.
“I told her I want you to stay in education, and she said, ‘Of course.’ ”
Beck said she knew several months ago that she would be the beneficiary of the gift, but she only received confirmation of her enrollment recently.
She will have up to four years to earn her degree and will take new online courses every five weeks.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Beck said, “but I know I’ll have some great support from my friends at Mitchell Middle School.
Moller thinks so, too.
“It’s a win-win for her, the kids and everyone concerned. She will do fine. I told her I know a pretty good teacher if she needs some help.”