A Braham High School teacher has received further recognition for winning a national teacher of the year award.
During a virtual event held on Thursday, Dec. 16, Sen. Amy Klobuchar thanked Luke Becker, an agricultural science and technology instructor and career and technical education coordinator at Braham High School, for his hard work in his field as a teacher.
“Every day Luke engages and inspires so many students in his agricultural technology and physics class. In other words he makes science cool,” Klobuchar said. “He’s helping students to get ready for the jobs of the future, because we know that in the next 10 years we’re not going to have a shortage of sports marketing degrees, we’re going have a shortage of mechanics and welders and health care workers and plumbers and computer programmers and engineers, and that’s just to name a few.”
Becker was named the Association for Career and Technical Education’s National Teacher of the Year during a virtual awards gala held Nov. 30 by the Association for Career and Technical Education.
What led to Becker to teaching these topics was growing and learning more about his passion.
“I was really passionate about vocational and the CT (career and technical) courses and the work that I was doing in high school with my teachers, and it was something I really wanted to continue in my life and continue that opportunity,” Becker said. “I wanted to have the ability to do some of those types of projects with students. And as we move on, it was never my intention to win any awards; I like the contests because the kids get excited about them.”
Klobuchar shared her background and how education made a huge impact on her life, teaching her how important it is.
“I wouldn’t be here if my dad and his parents hadn’t believed in education, and that’s the first reason. The second reason is, as a senator I know how much we need students and even workers that are looking for different jobs to go into the areas that Luke teaches in,” Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar thanked Becker for what he does for his students, but he feels it’s more of his students behind all the hard work.
“No teacher wins an award their students didn’t deserve. These guys do some really awesome stuff,” Becker said.
Klobuchar mentioned how big of a deal it is that Braham students are able to participate on projects that will benefit NASA.
“I doubt when you look at what Luke does, there are many other high schools out there who can say they worked on projects for NASA in the classroom, but Luke’s students can,” Klobuchar said. “And there aren’t too many high school students who can claim expertise in building biofuel-powered supermileage vehicles, but again Luke’s can,”
During the virtual event, Braham High School Principal Shawn Kuhnke mentioned Braham is a small town and the school is right in the middle.
“As you know, the school is the hub of a small rural town in Minnesota, and that’s exactly what we have here,” Kuhnke said.
Kuhnke expressed how great it is that Braham High School has such great opportunities thanks to Becker.
“One of the things he really does bring to Braham is opportunities, and speaking from the kind of extras above and beyond, I’m talking about the Eco Marathon Supermileage Challenge. We have a group of students who have opportunity to go and compete nationally in Indianapolis this coming April,” Kuhnke said.
Superintendent Ken Gagner agreed how great it is that their district gets to experience these projects.
“It’s pretty neat that in a little district like this that our kids have this opportunity,” Gagner said.
Kuhnke mentioned the battles schools sometimes have with funding, and when Braham is participating in such big projects, Becker is one who makes sure those can happen.
“As you know schools at times struggle with funding, struggle with money to be able to have opportunities like these,” Kuhnke said. “Maybe one of Luke’s greatest strengths is going out and shaking the hands important people that can help to fund the projects that we are able to do here as a result.”
A few students were able to speak with Klobuchar during the virtual event about projects that they are currently working on. Charlie Roed is a junior at Braham High School and Luke Gould is a senior.
They were asked by a NASA program to create a boot that can be used outside of the spaceship. Their design would be attached to the bottom of the boot and made of a tank track with magnets to stay attached to the ship. They powered it with a small motor on the back.
“The hardest part of this project has been trying to control the magnets, turning them on and off,” Gould said.
“So what’s the purpose of it? It’s on the outside of the ship? What does it do?” Klobuchar asked.
“Basically what it is, where if normally they do a space walk and need to set something on the side, our idea is essentially a boot on the bottom of their feet so they can drive around and stay attached to the ship and have both hands free and stay attached to the ship at all times,” Roed said.
After sharing the boot project that they are working on for NASA, Klobuchar wanted to suggest inviting them to meet with the head of NASA.
“We can find a way to bring you to Washington and you could go to NASA; I could arrange it. I know the head of NASA, a guy named Bill Nelson; he is a friend from Florida who is a former senator. We could have you meet with him, and we could also have you meet another senator, Mark Kelly, who is an astronaut — he got elected to the Senate afterwards from Arizona,” Klobuchar said. “It would be fun to see, have you share first-hand some of the work that you have done, but I just want to mostly thank you. It’s a great project, and to have real-world, or we’ll say real-planet, (and) lunar practical uses is what makes it even better.”
Heath Carter, a sophomore at Braham High School and FFA member, also spoke with Klobuchar about the supermileage team. Carter said the fuel of the car they are working on that will be raced in Indianapolis in April is made of 98% ethanol and can get 449.7 mpg, rated second place in the world.
“I’m a great believer in biofuels. They are actually better for the environment, for what it’s worth. They are something that allows our country to invest in our farmers and our workers instead of spending money on the Mideast; we make sure we get to support jobs in the Midwest, and making and using synfuels, and making them as efficient as possible is part of our challenge,” Klobuchar said.
Carter shared how much he appreciates his opportunities through these programs and from Becker.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of supermileage and FFA. Mr. Becker has given me so many opportunities and challenges. I am grateful to have him as a teacher and a mentor,” Carter said.
Klobuchar made sure to mention that she’s continuously working on keeping biofuels strong.
“I just introduced a bill to Sen. Grafsly, of Iowa, a Republican, just yesterday to make sure we keep our biofuel strong, so I’m trying to do my part, but you’re doing more than your part and also making this exciting for a new generation, I’d say,” Klobuchar said.
Becker experienced a small surprise when Jon Jensen, the lieutenant general of the Army National Guard, popped in the virtual event. Klobuchar introduced him and gave a brief comment about Becker.
Becker explained to Jensen that he planned to build a prosthetic leg for a friend – who is a veteran – who lost hers in a boating accident in hopes to get her back on skis.
“What a great endeavor, and I just like to thank you for that support of that veteran and helping them reclaim part of their life, so good work and congratulations,” Jensen said.
After much discussion, Klobuchar expressed how big of a difference teachers make.
“That’s the power of education, and it wouldn’t have happened for me without teachers like Luke. Teachers that taught my dad and my mom, and then teachers that taught me. So I just want to thank you, and I just love what you guys are doing, the emphasis on these jobs that need to be filled and how cool they are,” Klobuchar said.