Robert Becker

NEAF-Pearson Foundation Global Fellow 2013


The way I see it, the government of the United States has for many decades assumed the role of “benevolent” overseer of all nations – a superpower above reproach. And the culture this instills in us (its citizens) has unfortunately been one of arrogance and superiority.

But times have changed, and that’s a good thing. All of that power and responsibility will hopefully be shared by an ever-changing team of nations, and perhaps the most significant thing I learned from this program is that Brazil will likely be a very vibrant and innovative member of that team. Now, more than ever, global learning will come to the forefront in education. Being competitive in tomorrow’s global market will require skills of cooperation, compassion and cultural empathy. As educators, we can no longer afford to ignore these competencies in our daily lessons.


Communication is everything. And that communication, be it with students or parents or administrators, must be completely open and transparent.

There can be no hidden agendas. Students and parents have a right to know exactly what is expected of them and an obligation to let us know exactly what they expect from us.

In recent years, I have become acutely aware of the value of communication and teamwork among colleagues – both within my building and in distant schools. The fellow teachers/travelers on this trip to Brazil were educators extraordinaire, and the discussions that occurred with them were inspiring and often transformative. I am looking forward to continued dialog and collaboration with them in the future.


Patience is everything.

It costs the teacher nothing, and yet it seems to be invaluable to every student I’ve ever worked with. There is no doubt that teachers must set their standards high and then hold students responsible for nothing less than the very best. But they must also be patient with their students while they get there


I have this quotation up in my classroom: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

I ask my students to explain what it means and to predict who they think may have said it. I believe the most critical aspect of learning and of student achievement is failure. It is indeed ironic that we, as educators, seem to do everything in our power to protect our students from failure. When we all know that it is only through failure that anything ever gets learned or accomplished. I am a huge fan of failure, and I do my best to get every one of my students to take risks and to fail on a regular basis. And that, of course, is where the real lessons start. By the way, the author of the quotation is Bill Gates.


Family plays a huge role in the education of students.

Parents need to be supportive of their children, but not become enablers in the process. This parental involvement seems to wane once the students reach middle school, but that’s where some students need that support the most. The community also needs to be supportive. As far a return on investment, it is in everyone’s best interest to have well-educated and globally competent students graduating from our schools.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Bob Becker was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, received a B.A. in Biology from Yale University in ‘83 and a Masters in Education from Washington University in ’90. He taught for 6 years in Greenwich, Connecticut, then moved back to St. Louis where he has taught at Kirkwood High School for the past 21 years. He and his wife Kathy are blessed with three incredible daughters and two rambunctious dogs.

He currently teaches Honors Chemistry and serves as a sponsor for Kirkwood Youth Service Club, which channels students into a variety of volunteer projects in the St. Louis community.

Bob has developed and published several unusual demonstrations and micro-scale lab experiments in Chem 13 News, the Journal of Chemical Education, the Chemmunicator, the Octet Gazette, Chemunity News, and the Science Teacher, and he served as a regular writer for ChemMatters Magazine. He has also conducted over 150 workshops and presentations across the US and Canada, as well as, abroad in Ireland and Kuwait.

He has published two books of demonstrations, available together with videotape through Flinn Scientific. From 2000 to 2003, he had the great honor and privilege to work with Penney Sconzo and Ed Brogie on one of the Flinn Foundation traveling teams, presenting weeklong chemistry workshops around the country.

His awards include a regional Catalyst Award in 1992, given by the CMA (Chemical Manufacturers Association) a local ACS (American Chemical Society) award in 1994, the Midwest regional ACS award in 1995, a Tandy Technology Scholar Award in 1996, the ACS National Conant Award in 1997, Kirkwood District Teacher of the Year 2010 and Missouri State Teacher of the Year 2011.  He is a recipient of the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. He is also a 2013 NEAF-Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow.

His hobbies include cycling, racquetball, camping, wind surfing, gardening and of course chemistry! More important, however, and more enjoyable than any of these is his family.