Though she serves as cantor for Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Claremont and choir director for Immanuel First Lutheran in West Covina, teacher Susan Beckenham’s heart lies in the Tech Focus Program she created for Providence High School in Burbank two years ago.“When I was studying Common Practice music [toward a degree in Secondary Music Education] in college, I realized that all classical music is based on patterns and familiarity — as is math — and computer programming,” noted Beckenham.It was in college that she stumbled upon a computer lab for the first time and found herself taking what technology courses then existed. “When I graduated,” she said, “they offered me a job as the computer lab tech.” Beckenham took that as a night job while beginning her teaching career as a choir director and math teacher by day — and working towards a master’s degree in Applied Computer Science. She also continued her choral work by traveling the world with student ambassadors as part of People to People International. “That’s how I got to Australia to meet my husband,” she said, and it’s also how she came to sing in exotic locales around the world, most memorably in an amphitheater in Pompeii, Italy “where the echo of the ‘Ave Maria’ was magical.” In 2007, Beckenham took a job teaching algebra and Digital Information Literacy (DIL) at Providence where Medical Focus and Media Focus programs already existed thanks to the school’s proximity to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and the Disney and Warner Brothers Studios.But they didn’t have a Tech Focus Program, “so I proposed it.” As with most private high schools, that meant Beckenham had to create it as well, developing all 13 classes that cross the four-year curriculum.Through her work with the University of California Curriculum Institute, several are U.C. approved “including the first ever in the state computing accounting course.” Freshmen take 2-D and 3-D computer gaming classes; sophomores take robotics, what Beckenham calls “the curb appeal classes”; and juniors take business statistics and accounting. AP computer science and web design courses are currently in the works. The best fun she’s had so far? Taking the robotics students to the annual Bot Bowl where they won awards for Best Team Chemistry the first year and Best Robotic Arm design the second year. They are looking to host an event involving underwater robotics through the SeaPerch Program (funded by the Office of Naval Research). To train for it, Beckenham recently took the students to the Holy Spirit Retreat Center (home to PHS religion teacher Sister Joeline Santiago) where students sunk a model of the Titanic in the pond and used an underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to retrieve it. In the midst of this, Beckenham hasn’t forgotten her music, serving as a master cantor during school Masses. “Music is my ministry,” she explains. “We all love the Lord and we sing to him in worship. A lot of my students do both music and tech as well since it’s all right brain activity and it all involves creativity.” What keeps her going? “The excitement of knowing the students are always going to be better than me. By the time they get to be seniors, they’ll be showing me things they’ve created and I’ll be asking them, ‘How did you do that?’”—January 11, 2013{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0111/sfprovidence/{/gallery}