kindness activist

kindness activist

Saturday, February 25, 2017

YOUR Kindness Needed Now - Please Help Keep A Reading Mission Going

There are times in everyone’s life that are hard.  Difficult periods.  Rough patches.  And this is most certainly that time for the students, faculty and staff of Gomez Heritage Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska. 

My sister Sherry is a para at Gomez.  It is an amazing school, full of kids who come from homes with very hard working families, many of whom have immigrated to the United States. They come from homes filled with hope and full of love.  The majority of the students do not speak in English at home.  School is a place where they not only learn subjects like math and art, but they also work hard to develop English as a second language.    

Gomez Heritage Elementary School
Gomez Elementary is FULL of caring, inspirational teachers and staff.  The adults at the school work very hard and are deeply committed to the children they work with.  They see the big difference they are making in the lives of these kids, and that gives them strength to continue through the tough times, like this week.

One of their own suddenly passed away.

Tanya Becker
Tanya Becker, the literacy coach at Gomez, was only 48 years old when she died in her sleep.  I can’t imagine how hard the loss must be for her children, her family, and her students.  She was a beloved teacher at the school, and touched the lives of many students and parents during her nine years working there.

My sister Sherry was understandably upset.  She explained how Tanya was the “sunshine” of the school.  She met the children at the front door when they arrived at Gomez every morning.  She often put her hands into a heart shape on her chest to show the kids how much she loved them.  And it was Tanya who rallied everyone at Gomez to become “Team Sherry” and help her get thru treatment when Sherry was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.   

Tanya and Sherry.  Team Sherry had her back all through treatment.
At times like this it is often difficult to know what to do or say – how to help.  I would like to ask for YOUR ASSISTANCE to do something to keep the mission of Mrs. Becker going, to remind her students of the importance of READING.  In honor of their reading coach, I would like to make sure each and every Gomez student has a new book to read.  I will place stickers in each book reminding them how loved they were by Mrs. Becker and how important it is to continue her mission of reading.    

Can you please help me out with this massive goal?  Gomez serves children pre-K – 4th grade.  We need 875 books for students, and 140 adult books for faculty and staff, who miss their colleague dearly.  Can you donate a few new (or gently used) books to this cause, or perhaps a gift card to a book store we can use to get enough books?  Is your child ordering through Scholastic at school and willing to share a couple of books with some “new friends” in Omaha?  Can you share this request for help with your circle of friends and family to get the word out??  I would be very appreciative of any help you can give. 

Please email me at: (email link here )  for a mailing address to send books or gift cards to.  If you are local to the DC metro area I will happily come to you to pick up whatever you can donate.  I hope to have all books collected and ready to hand out to the students by March 26, 2017. 

Tanya's "signature move" with the kids - hands of love
Here are some links to online ordering resources:

Again, please share this request with others.  The more people willing to pitch in and donate, the sooner those kids will have books honoring Mrs. Becker in their hands.  THANK YOU for reading, for caring, and for helping.

Here is the Gomez website:  Gomez Heritage Elementary School

If you would like a flyer to hang in your workplace, school, or place of worship to help bring in more donations, I have a flyer you can print.  This site will not let me attach files, so please email me at and I will send you the flyer.  
The following is Tanya Becker’s obituary from the Omaha World Herald newspaper:

Beloved Gomez Heritage teacher Tanya Becker was devoted to increasing literacy, 'called everyone friend'
By Marcella Mercer / World-Herald staff writer
Feb 23, 2017 

Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Tanya Becker’s office at Gomez Heritage Elementary is a testament to her teaching.

The South Omaha school’s principal, John Campin, said the room is full of notes from students thanking their literacy coach. Sometimes, there’d be messages like “We love you Mrs. Becker” or “Thanks for teaching me how to read,” on her whiteboard.

Becker died unexpectedly in her sleep Monday. She was 48. The cause of death is unknown, said Tanya Becker’s father-in-law, Neil Becker.

Tanya Becker was born in Omaha and lived in the city most of her life. She left the area briefly to earn her bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and two master’s degrees followed, in literacy and academic leadership.

Becker used her education to further that of others, her father-in-law said. For 25 years, she taught at Omaha Public Schools and also served for some time as an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Seward. Then in 2009, she landed at Gomez-Heritage.

Her focus there was increasing literacy in a school where 58 percent of students learn English as their second language. It was a role she tackled with monthly reading nights, coaching for teachers on literacy strategies, and one-on-one work with students.

On top of these responsibilities, Becker organized literacy groups for her students’ parents. At these meetings, she sometimes helped adults who couldn’t read in English, or at all.
But Becker could connect with any student, Campin said.

“Our reading scores increased significantly because of her ability to teach students, teach teachers, teach parents,” Campin said.

Every morning, Becker stood by the doors of the school and greeted students and parents.

“She was always happy and energetic,” Campin said. “She just called everyone friend.”
When the students were smiling, she could be quick with hugs. And when people looked sad, Becker was known to fold her hands into a heart to show she cared.
“She was a defender of people, family, friends, students,” Neil Becker said.

The marquee outside of the school now shows how much Tanya Becker meant to those she met. Students helped make the sign read “We love Mrs. Becker our sunshine”

Becker is survived by her husband, Patrick Becker; children, Jason and Ellie; parents, Michael and Kathryn Farrens; siblings, Bryan Farrens and Scott Farrens; and father-in-law and mother-in-law, Neil and Paula Becker.

A mass of Christian burial is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.

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