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Couple Contribute to Martinez Schools

Shell Martinez Refinery employee Mike Beck and his wife, Diane, are passionate about assisting the Martinez Unified School District, investing untold hours on school projects over the years.

On Jan. 10, the Martinez school board presented the Becks with a Certificate of Appreciation for their volunteer efforts to install computer cabling and equipment at almost every local school, for managing websites for the school and for participating in the district’s Technology Advisory Community, the Martinez Education Foundation and the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA).

"They have gone above and beyond typical parental and community participation, and they have done it consistently over many, many years. We thought that deserved recognition," said Max Eissler, the district’s director of information and educational technology.

The Becks are humble about the recognition.

"It was very touching to hear the nice things that the superintendent, several board members and the IT supervisor, Max, said while giving us the award," Mike said. Diane added, "It was extremely generous of them to honor us."

Mike, the refinery's health and safety manager, serves on the district’s Measure B Citizens' Oversight Committee, a watchdog group providing recommendations and ensuring bond funds are spent according to requirements and voter expectations.

He is a member of the district’s Technology Advisory Committee, which provides direction on implementing and integrating technology into district education programs and obtains funds to enable technology initiatives.

"We look at technology that can be incorporated into the curriculum to help the teachers teach and the students learn," Mike explained.

Diane first started helping out in the classroom at Morello Park Elementary School, which the couple’s oldest son attended. She continued assisting there until her youngest son moved up to Martinez Junior High School.

"Volunteering is a way to meet people in the community and other parents," she said.

Now, the couple's oldest son is a freshman at Alhambra High School and the youngest is a seventh grader at Martinez Junior High, so Diane serves on the junior high's PTSA board. "I like the PTSA because we supplement what the schools and teachers need."

Diane also is a board member of the Martinez Education Foundation (MEF), the fundraising group that provides grants for innovative teaching programs in the district. Mike volunteers for the annual Shell/MEF 5k Run-Walk for Education.  Both Mike and Diane update the Martinez Junior High website.

"They have contributed tremendously to the district. They have had their fingers in just about every part of the pie here," Eissler said. "Mike, Diane, and their sons, Peter and Matt, are a joy to work with. They are always eager and helpful, and they have helped improve our school system for all of our families." 
 
Mike's involvement in Martinez schools began in 1988 after he joined Shell as a chemical engineer. He was a single recent college graduate.

"One of the reasons I came to Shell was they are proactive in the community," he said. "I always thought that giving back to the community was important." 

He first volunteered to judge a science fair. The positive experience of meeting teachers and administrators prompted him to contribute more of his spare time. He accepted invitations to speak at Alhambra's "Career Day" and to serve on the district's strategic planning committee, where he enjoyed helping to steward plans and address needs for the upcoming school year.

The district needed classroom computers, and Mike's promotion to supervisor of the refinery's information technology department helped get them. His first responsibility in that new job was to upgrade 400 three-year-old computers.

"Shell considered the computers old, but when I looked around the classrooms they were definitely an upgrade to what the school district had," Mike said. Shell donated all of the computers.

Over the next four years, Mike assisted with troubleshooting, often retrieving a computer on his lunch break and repairing it at home. Diane occasionally assisted the teachers with their computer issues after consulting with Mike. The district now receives grants which provide 100 new computers yearly, and Mike mobilizes a core team of 20 Shell volunteers to deploy them.

"We're the muscle to physically get the computers out of the boxes and into the classroom," Mike says. "Some of the volunteers are instrument folks, electricians and operators, but the one thing they all have in common is they like to volunteer. It's very rewarding when they do this for the kids in the community and to help with their education. The school district is always a big pull, so it' pretty easy for me to get volunteers."

So easy, his sons are also school volunteers.

"On the last two computer installs over the summer, both of my sons asked if they could participate, and they had a good time doing it. It’s rewarding to pass down these values to another generation," Mike said.

In addition to championing Martinez school projects, the Becks participate in Shell community outreach efforts. Each summer, the refinery asks employees living in Martinez to host an ice cream social in their driveway to give neighborhood residents an opportunity to speak with refinery leaders and get their questions answered.

Mike said his family is happy to host a social, noting, "It puts a personal face on our company."