Crime beat journalists report hard news stories. Prosecutors try to put the bad guys away. But former journalist Hang Becker, who originally had plans to be a prosecuting attorney, took a different route.
Becker spoke with reporter Shamontiel Vaughn about what made her decide to go from working in the journalism industry to taking on one of the most challenging jobs in the Illinois area: teaching.
"I was working as a journalist for city news, and I was covering the criminal courts beat for a while," said Becker. "On a day-to-day process, [I saw] defendants getting younger and younger, and getting charged as adults. So my initial thought was I wanted to be a prosecutor."
The highest amount of children who end up in the juvenile justice system are housed more often in the Harrisburg, St. Charles and Kewanee counties in Illinois, according to the Illinois government site. They are usually male, between the ages of 17 and 20, from Cook County (the Chicagoland area), and involved in a Class 2 felony: robbery, burglary, and arson.
But a friend of hers, who was a judge, suggested that Becker consider working in an educational facility.
"He suggested I become a teacher and maybe help [children] before they get to see him in the violence courtroom," said Becker.
Initially, Becker wasn’t too thrilled with that idea. As a part of the media, she’d already dealt with a variety of people. However, being able to work with children comes with a unique set of skills.
"I did not think I had the patience to deal with children," Becker admitted. "I mean, dealing with adults, it’s pretty difficult at times. And then when I had to cover parades with children involved, it was even harder to get a response or an immediate answer from them, so I really did not want to become a teacher."
However, she kept an open mind. Becker sat in the back of a third-grade classroom on Chicago’s southwest side and just observed, with permission from a school principal.
"It was vastly different from how I grew up. It just felt as if they didn’t have the supervision at home that they needed or the guidance. Then I got my master’s degree and decided to go back and become a teacher."
Then, she tested out being a substitute teacher for about a month.
"I was thinking there’s such a greater impact in helping them get a better career, a better life and try to get out of what they’re in instead of putting them in jail after it’s too late. I really felt that it was something that I wanted to do.”
With a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Chicago’s Columbia College and a master’s in Education from Northern Illinois University, she has been able to use the skills of her own higher education at a total of four schools, including her current fifth-grade class at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy.
She did admit that her first year as a teacher was "very tough" but parents helped to make the process easier.
"As much as you as a teacher think you’re doing what you want for the students, it’s always best to partner up with the parents and talk to them because they have a different perspective of their own child. You want to make sure they’re learning, but they value what they’re learning as well."
Has Hang Becker’s story inspired you to do the same? Let us know in the comments section below!