By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Paul Beckermann, the Dassel-Cokato High School media and digital learning specialist, was recently recognized at the Minnesota Education Media Organization’s state conference as its outstanding media specialist of the year.
This is Beckermann’s 25th year teaching, first as an English teacher, and the last seven in his position as media specialist.
Along with being DC’s media and digital learning specialist, Beckermann has served on the Central Minnesota Library Exchange (CMLE) board for the last six years and is their current president. The organization provides library support services to more than 300 libraries, 265 of which are school media centers.
It was his colleague on the CMLE board, director Patricia Post, who nominated Beckermann for the award.
“Paul is aware, engaged, and a team player,” Post said. “He values the big picture in education, but also understands the stresses and challenges in providing students ever-changing 21st century skills.”
She notes that Beckermann has been instrumental in the DC School District by brainstorming ways to do more with less, and has brought that same skill set to the governing board of the CMLE.
“Paul knows how to dream big, while providing a careful balance with reality,” Post added. “My decision to nominate Paul was easy; the tough part was finding a way to sum up the wide array of accomplishments of this talented individual.”
In order to move an idea forward, Beckermann does all of the necessary background planning to be sure the district has thought of the potential impacts, both good and bad, as well as accounted for the necessary resources to implement the idea, noted High School Principal Dean Jennissen.
“Paul is very focused, innovative, and hard-working,” said Superintendent Jeff Powers. “He stays current with educational trends and best practice, and subsequently recommends changes that will provide the highest level of cost/benefit to the district.”
Through Beckermann’s efforts, the media center expanded its access for students by restructuring staffing to extend the hours of the media center, resulting in an additional hour each day that students may access media resources, Jennissen noted.
Beckermann credits district’s team effort
Although Beckermann enjoyed his teaching career in the classroom, he was intrigued by the challenges that were offered as a media specialist.
“I made the move to the media center largely because I saw what my wife, Pam, did in the middle school,” Beckermann said. “I felt it would be an exciting, professional challenge for me, and allow me to impact the school beyond my English classroom.”
While Beckermann was looking for a new challenge, he also did not want to lose the connection he had to the classroom after he became the media specialist, noted Jennissen.
Working as a media specialist allows Beckermann to do many things he loves; teaching students, collaborating with teachers, bringing exciting new resources and tools to students and staff, and working with others to develop a vision for the future of the school, he said.
“Team teaching is a big part of Paul’s role as a media specialist,” Jennissen noted. “By design, he makes himself available for team-teaching, and teachers do not hesitate to involve Paul, because they quickly recognize he is a master teacher.”
And it is the team that Beckermann credits for the award he has received.
“I’m very lucky to work in such a great school district. Every day, I get to work with a motivated, professional staff who wants to provide a great education for their students,” Beckermann said.
He noted that his wife, Pam, the middle school media and digital learning specialist, is also a master teacher, and has been his mentor and role model.
“I have learned so much from her, and there is no one in the education field I respect more,” Beckermann said.
He also acknowledged the team of media specialists in the district who helped him achieve the honor.
“Pam, Pam Osterberg (Cokato Elementary), and Carla Halvorson (Dassel Elementary) are true professionals, and do so much for their buildings,” Beckermann said. “There is not another media department in the state I’d rather work with than these three.”
Another team Beckermann credits are his parents, who taught him the value of school and a good education, and were always very positive and supportive of him.
“It made a huge difference in my life, and that’s something I try to give back to the students and staff at DC,” Beckermann said.
The district’s administration has been instrumental in allowing the media department in the district to thrive, Beckermann said.
“I feel thankful that our school board and administration are so supportive of the media department and of educational technology initiatives in our district,” Beckermann said.
Working with the English department at the high school this past year to pilot the digital learning initiative has been one of the highlights of Beckermann’s professional career, he said.
“With so many new tools available, we are at a transformational point in education,” he added, noting supportive leadership and willing teachers allow the district to move forward.
“I have been so impressed with our teachers’ attitudes and the great work they have done, and I believe we are creating a successful model for the rest of our school,” Beckermann said.
Always striving to offer the best
“For Paul, excellence is not a final destination. It is a continual process. He is continually reading, researching, and networking to find out how we can improve our program,” Jennissen said.
For instance, Beckermann is piloting a new initiative to better prepare high school students for college studies by participating in the cooperative effort, Bridging Information Literacy Across Libraries.
“Every day I go to work, I ask myself how I can do my job better, and how I can make our school better,” Beckermann said. “One of the keys to doing that is to never stop learning. That’s something I hope we can instill in our students.”
“Paul is quite simply outstanding, a master of his craft as a teacher/media specialist/technology integrationist, and worthy of the 2012 MEMO Outstanding Media Specialist award,” Post said.