Meet Becky Schnekser

Well, hello there!

My name is Becky, and I am an elementary science teacher in Virginia Beach, Virginia! I am an avid science nerd, athlete, Washington football fan, Twitter-er, Instagrammer, dance mom, soccer mom, and just living that teacher life.

I love being in the field, whether it’s on my school campus, a local park, or the Peruvian Amazon. In the field, no matter the location, I feel alive. I bring my students and family with me any chance I have, and we learn together. The natural world contains so many stories that need to be heard, understood, and shared.

And one time, I nearly drowned in a Zodiac.

While on expedition to Galapagos, our ship (the National Geographic Endeavour II) was too large to allow for direct disembarkation to shore. Instead we took Zodiacs, small inflatable boats which carry about 16 passengers at a time.

Just before heading out on the Zodiac to explore Santiago Island, Galapagos. Naturally, I needed to do my best Explorer pose.
Photograph by Becky Schnekser

One particular morning, we disembarked for our research location earlier than normal. While waiting for our return-to-ship Zodiac, I teased one of the naturalists about stealing his Zodiac for our team. (My team was assigned to Zodiac Two and his to Zodiac One.) We watched as his team boarded and returned to the ship flawlessly.

Our Zodiac arrived and my team began to board. A wave smacked our boat, causing a bit of a startle to the first few of us on board. We waited as the rest of the team continued to board, while wave after wave began slamming our Zodiac. By now our bottoms were sufficiently soaked. The sky was overcast, there was a slight breeze, and the water was chilly, but we were okay—for now.

As we awaited the boarding of our last three teammates, it happened.

The largest wave we had yet encountered slammed our Zodiac, sending several of us to the middle of the boat. Screaming, panic, and chill set into many of members of our team as waves continued to grow and pound our Zodiac. I was able to get up and plant myself on the edge of the Zodiac, but many were unable, seemingly frozen to the bottom of the small craft.

Not only were these waves crashing into the boat, causing it to be off-kilter, but they were also quickly filling the bottom with water and setting us further and further onto the sandy coastline.

This was it. Team members struggled to keep their composure. Many called composure a loss and remained in shock for the entirety of the ordeal. Team members on shore rushed to help push us into the water, but the waves continued to wreak havoc and make our departure nearly impossible.

By this time, the life jackets stored on the Zodiac began to pop. They were just doing their job, inflating while they were submerged in the water filling the boat.

By some miracle, we were able to get underway.

Our team leader soon instructed us to begin emptying the water from our craft to help us make it to the ship faster. I looked at my small hands, then to the water, then to my hands again. They were my only tools, so I began scooping water as best I could and attempted to hurl it overboard. It wasn’t working. At this moment I realized my leg was bleeding from an earlier fall, and pairs of shoes that were previously secure on the Zodiac floor were now popping to the top of the water, in danger of floating out of our craft. I used my feet to hold down as many pairs as possible while still attempting to vacate water from the boat. I am a rule-follower, after all, and I was told to do this task!

I took a moment to look around to see what strategies my team members were using to get the water out. This is when I saw our team leader reach to his back pocket for his flip-flops, and begin using them as flippers to slosh water out of our Zodiac. It was one of the most comical sights. Like me, he was not successful in his attempts.

I began to smirk and took my seat on the edge of the boat.

By this time, we were nearly to the ship, shivering, cold, a little in shock, but absolutely grateful that we indeed survived this ordeal. As soon as the nose of the Zodiac made contact with our ship, one team member jumped up and nearly pushed us all to sea. She was in shock and needed desperately to vacate the Zodiac.

We were the only Zodiac that had difficulty that morning. Go figure. With this experience, I learned two things: the importance of remaining calm in unsettling situations and finding the humor in any circumstance.

When sharing this story with students, I often replay it as a one-man theater show, especially the bit with our leader’s doggy-paddle flip-flop action. This event had such an impact on me that I wrote a blog post on Open Explorer and recorded a podcast episode dedicated to it.

Yes, a podcast. I enjoy connecting with others and learning their stories, as well as sharing my own—which is what brought me to the world of blogging in the first place, and was also the impetus for starting a podcast.

My podcast is called Expedition Schnekser and is an invitation to all educators to join my “expedition team” as I tell of my successes, failures, and lessons learned in the field. You can find it on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and Google podcasts. I share about how the field influences my teaching and interactions with students. After all, expeditions are defined as a voyage or journey with the intent to explore!

Podcasting is a powerful storytelling tool, one which allows the host, guests, and listeners to share an experience together—an expedition if you will. Long-term, I would like to create a podcast with students where they share their stories from the laboratory, their reflections, hopes, dreams, and goals. They already have blogs, but I feel that podcasting has a different element to it, a different power harnessed through oral storytelling.

Stories are captivating and powerful: They hold truths, treasures, and life lessons that just beg to be shared.

On expedition, selfies are basically mandatory and who am I to break that expectation? Here, I pose just outside of a lava tube on Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos.
Photograph by Becky Schnekser

Rebecca Schnekser is an educator and traveler. Expedition Schnekser is a podcast dedicated to empowering students and educators by connecting classrooms to field science, field science to classrooms, and harnessing the power of sciencetelling (science storytelling). Find out more at Expedition Schnekser and on Twitter @schnekser.

5 thoughts on “Meet Becky Schnekser

  1. Hi Becky! It was nice to read your explorer story! It sounds like it was quite an adventure. I teach at an elementary school in Va Beach as well so it was great to make a connection with a ” local.” I look forward to reading more.

  2. I love the Explorer pose! I look forward to learning with you and from you as well!

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