This is the fifth and final article in a series of profiles about each finalist for Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2021 Citywide Teacher of the Year. The citywide winner will be announced Friday, May 8, 2020.
Rebecca Yaple is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educator at Bayside Middle School.
Since elementary school, Yaple knew she wanted to be a teacher. She volunteered in schools throughout her high school years and with Junior Achievement during college, helping local middle school students with math lessons.
“I teach because I want to change the world,” she said. “I believe that starts in the classroom. I want to help as many students succeed in their plans for after school. Touching and enriching the lives of my students is what keeps me coming to school every day. I want to provide the consistency of someone who believes in them every day, even when they don’t believe in themselves.”
She prides herself on trying new things. She was a Bayside MS pioneer of the “flipped classroom” concept, where teachers create videos and interactive lessons for students to access from home in advance, then spend classroom time working through the problems. Yaple will serve as the lead educator for the Verizon STEM Innovation Lab at Bayside MS, a learning environment that was in part donated by Pharrell Williams. Although the lab has not yet opened, she is already teaching the curriculum that was specially developed for it.
“As a leader in her school-based professional learning community, Becca has been able to model her approaches with teachers who are both new to the subject area and new to the building,” remarked Sarah Sicinski, a library media specialist at Bayside MS. “The knowledge that all teachers in the building have gained from Becca’s innovative approaches to teaching and learning is immeasurable.”
Yaple conducts math tutoring after school during the week, leads the Bayside MS robotics team, is on both Tidewater Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and volunteers with the K9 Justice League.
That commitment to the entire school community is partly why Bria Beamon and Jasmin Brown believe Yaple is the best teacher in Hampton Roads. “Ms. Yaple is an amazing person because she knows how to connect with people on an emotional level,” the Bayside MS students wrote in a joint letter to the Teacher of the Year committee. “She is an outstanding teacher because she wants the very best for all of her students. Ms. Yaple encourages a learning environment where students are able to express opinions (and) creates a space that allows creativity to flow.”
Bayside MS Principal Paula Johnson, Ed.D. concurred, “Rebecca Yaple represents the best of today’s 21st century educator.”