Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Roger Beck retires in St. John after 52 years

Roger Beck

Roger Beck came to St. John in 1968 from Kellogg, Idaho.

ST. JOHN – He has taught in seven decades; the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s and '20s.

Last Thursday, Roger Beck delivered caps and gowns to graduating seniors in St. John and Endicott, driving 110 miles, the senior class advisor for St. John/Endicott High School in his 52nd year at the school.

He is also retiring at the end of the year.

Is this true, for the business teacher, coach and advisor who has been there since zip codes were five years old?

"Oh yeah, they know it is," said Beck. "After 52 years, there's other things my wife and I would like to do. It's not fun to be a teacher right now."

With the virus closures yet to occur – and the task of teaching online, etc. – he had made the decision in February to retire.

His classes this year included personal finance, accounting, Introduction to Technology and business math, while serving again as yearbook advisor as he has since the start.

Originally from Kellogg, Idaho, the son of a miner and waitress, Beck got a business education degree at Eastern Washington University in 1968.

"Back in the day, we taught shorthand. Nobody knows that anymore," he said. "We used manual typewriters and taught math without calculators because they didn't exist."

He remembers the first time he saw a hand-held calculator. A math teacher at St. John walked in to Beck's classroom with one in 1972. It cost $240.

How did he decide to be a teacher?

"I got in the wrong line," Beck said. "I was gonna be an accountant. I decided it'd be more fun to teach it than just to do it."

Before graduation, his college advisor told him about an opening in St. John.

He had never been to the area.

"Didn't even know what a combine looked like," Beck said.

He and wife Evelyn moved to town that summer with a plan.

"We were thinking five years, and we missed that one," said Beck. "It's a pretty amazing town. It had a good church and was a good place to raise kids."

Their children graduated in 1990, 1993 and 1995.

Beck's classroom – the same one for 52 years – went from tile to carpet, chalkboard to whiteboard.

His daughter's best friend from school days is now the varsity girls' basketball coach. The coach's daughter, Riley Lamb, from the class of 2019, was the first grandchild graduate of one of Beck's original students.

"Small-town kids were good to work with. You didn't have a lot of disciplinary problems," he said.

In the summers, he drove a harvest truck for more than 30 years for Bud Wagner and Mark Tollett. He is still the manager of the public pool across from the high school.

He will be 74 in July.

What did he like about teaching?

"A combination of the subjects taught, then the kids and staff you work with," Beck said.

The first half of his career was purely with St. John kids, then the co-op began with Endicott in 1987.

"Kids could interact with more kids," said Beck. "It went from a class size of 14 to 20-some."

He estimated he has worked with 10-12 principals and seven or eight superintendents throughout his career.

As yearbook advisor, at the beginning, the Dorian company would come down twice per year to take pictures. St. John got its own dark room in 1976.

"It's still there but there's nothing in it," Beck said.

How did he decide to retire?

"I took some walks and thought about stuff and thought it would be more fun to be with my wife," he said. "It was becoming work. Grading papers. It just seemed more to me because I was getting older and didn't have the same energy."

He has served as senior class advisor for 48 years, ran the junior class play in the fall and led Knowledge Bowl and FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America).

Beck also worked as the site manager for football, basketball and volleyball games – managing concessions and dinner supplies, ticket takers and more. He also coached high school baseball and softball and junior high basketball and wrestling.

"My commute for 52 years has been two blocks," Beck said.

Evelyn served as the school district business manager for 21 years, retiring in 2008.

They have 12 grandchildren, with all three of the Becks' kids living in Spokane within seven minutes of each other.

"Whitman County is a great area to be in to teach," Beck said.

Author Bio

Garth Meyer, Reporter

Garth Meyer is a reporter and sports writer at the Whitman County Gazette.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 5092356184
Contact Garth Meyer


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