Ray Beckmann
Electrical Engineer, UTC Aerospace Systems 
Kennedy Middle School Math Tutor for the College Readiness team's Math Tutor Program Pilot at Kennedy Middle School. 

Bio and Professional Experience

My wife Vicki and I live in Genoa, a town of 5000 souls surrounded by corn and soybean fields, 25 or so miles southeast of Rockford. We moved to Genoa sixteen years ago when I took a position at United Technologies Aerospace Systems (then Hamilton Sundstrand).   I grew up in northwest suburban Streamwood as did Vicki. Shortly after we were married we moved to Elgin where we spent fifteen happy years before moving to Genoa. We have one child, a daughter, Katie, who is a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky in Lexington.  

I am an electrical engineer at UTAS. My primary responsibilities are in power generation system simulation and embedded software design. Modern aircraft require a lot of electricity. The electricity is used for critical things like moving flight control surfaces, and not so critical things like powering   in-flight entertainment systems. Generating the electricity safely and seeing to it that the electricity is safely distributed around the aircraft is one of the many things we do at UTAS.

What are your responsibilities as a math tutor for Alignment Rockford’s Kennedy Middle School Math Tutor pilot and why did you decide to volunteer as a tutor?

For one hour a week, I get to work with some really bright, energetic sixth graders who are being introduced to algebra. We spend our time going over baffling homework problems, or repeatedly solving problems that aren’t so baffling but build important skills that the students will need later in their academic careers. We also talk about what kind of bicycles they ride or how horrible it was to have the flu last week or where they last saw their lost cell phone. 

I decided to become a tutor for multiple reasons. As my daughter grew up and became a confident, successful adult (the thing you hope for as a parent, that becomes the thing that breaks your heart), I missed helping out with homework and regularly interacting with young people.  I also wanted to share my talents and experience with kids who may not have had some of the same advantages that I was given as a child.  I am also one of those people who enjoy doing math, and I always want to learn and understand more myself.  So, tutoring students in math seemed like a good fit.

Can you share any significant reflections or specific moments that stand out from participating in this pilot program throughout this school year?

My favorite tutoring moments are when the light bulb goes on for the students and I can be excited with and for them.   It’s great when one of them looks at me wide-eyed and says something like “Hey, I get this now!”  It’s even better when they snap off a correct answer without even pausing to think and I can say “Did you hear yourself? Do you know what you just did? You got that one without even trying! You are on your way! You are going places!”  Watching students feel successful and gain confidence has been very rewarding.  

How do you feel that your participation in this program has impacted the students you have tutored?

I would like to think that my participation has given the students a better sense of self-worth, and I hope they have gotten some idea of how bright they are. I hope they remember to keep the doors of opportunity open for themselves by making good choices and persevering. I am optimistic that the ideas of graduating from high school and going to university will become operating assumptions for them.

Why is it important for community members to participate in programs such as the Kennedy math tutor pilot and do you have any suggestions on how community members should get involved?

Although everyone may not feel comfortable with the role of academic tutor, it is important that these students are valued and given the additional support that they deserve.  I am grateful to their teachers for allowing me to come alongside them and provide some of this support.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this program.  Working with and getting to know these children has made a positive impact on me.  It is the highlight of my week!