Nominate an educator to teach computer science, transform an entire classroom

Code.org
Code.org
Feb 18 · 7 min read

**New for 2020!** If a teacher you nominate applies and is accepted to a workshop, you’ll receive a $10 Amazon gift card! Nominate someone you know now.

We launched the Nominate a Teacher campaign in 2019 where we asked YOU to nominate a teacher to apply to our Professional Learning program. Almost 7,000 teachers were nominated, and many of them successfully applied and were accepted into workshops around the country!

Anyone can nominate an educator to teach computer science!

The campaign was so popular, we’re doing it again this year! There’s still time to nominate a fellow educator (or yourself!), or apply to the program directly.

Our program fully prepares teachers to teach computer science successfully in their classrooms, even with no prior CS or STEM experience.

Best of all for 2020, Code.org is offering scholarships for thousands of eligible middle and high school teachers attending our workshops. For elementary school teachers, our one-day CS Fundamentals workshops are offered at fully-to-partially-discounted rates thanks to our network of Regional Partners and generous grants from our donors.

We caught up with a few of last year’s nominees who went through the program to hear about their experiences.

“You go through the program as if you were a student”

Pamela Ferrell, who teaches at a middle school in Chester, South Carolina, knew she needed to learn more about computer science after the state deliberated on an education bill in 2019 with a clause requiring all high schools to offer at least one computer science course by fall 2020. The bill did not pass, but it’s back on the table for the legislature to review this year.

A veteran teacher with 23 years of teaching experience under her belt, she taught classes on keyboarding, word processing, and business education but had no prior experience teaching computer science. She completed Code.org’s CS Discoveries workshop in the summer of 2018, but her school’s administration decided to put off integrating computer science into the curriculum until the following year.

She still had an appetite for learning about computer science and anticipates that her state will soon require high schools to teach it, so she started looking more seriously at the CS Principles curriculum, which is geared toward high school students.

Ferrell asked her principal, Sheka Houston, to nominate her to attend a CS Principles workshop. After applying and being accepted, she took the workshop at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, just 30 minutes north of her school.

“In the workshops you go through the program as if you were a student, so we see what the students see,” she said. “That was really helpful.”

She also added that the “hands-on” aspect of the workshop helped her see the material through her students’ eyes, which enhanced her own understanding not just of the material from Code.org, but also of computer science more broadly. As a first-year computer science teacher, she is no longer nervous about teaching Computer Science Discoveries to her 300 6–8th grade students.

“Before I refused to learn computer science, and now I’m learning it, and I’m learning from the students!” she said. “They’re teaching me, in a way I can learn too, which is so appealing.”

Her class is working through the first three units of the CS Discoveries curriculum, and she says so far her students have been extremely receptive to the lessons.

“The students are loving the ‘Propose an App’ project,” she says. The project, which is part of unit 1 in the curriculum, asks students to propose an app designed to solve a real world problem. “They’re loving that and really getting into it. I’m seeing so many new and creative ideas. And each time I teach it, I become more comfortable. I would not have taught this had I not done the workshop.”

The CS Discoveries and CS Principles workshops consist of a 5-day in-person summer workshop with 4 more sessions throughout the year. The additional 4 sessions can be done in person or virtually.

Scholarships help teachers help their students

For Melody Christian, the scholarships offered by Code.org’s generous donors made all the difference in her decision to attend a CS Discoveries workshop. Christian teaches 6–8th graders at Madison County Middle School in rural Comer, Georgia. The school receives Title 1 assistance and has a high number of free and reduced lunches.

Her nominator was Candace May Scoggins, a colleague from the computer science endorsement program she completed.

“When I got the email I was nominated, I applied immediately,” Christian said. “To receive the scholarship to be able to attend was meaningful because it’s a rural school with not much of a tax base, so funding out here is limited.”

Christian was the CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) teacher for 12 years, and during that time she says the courses shifted from focusing on how to use computer applications to the actual study of computer science. Georgia has made a strong push for teaching computer science in schools, and in May 2019 the state passed SB 108, which phases in a requirement that all middle and high schools must offer computer science by 2025.

“There is a lot of push at the state level to offer computer science at every school, and the principal at my school was very supportive,” she said. “I didn’t have any issues getting support from him to follow through on the requirements on his end.”

Now, she’s confident in teaching a computer science curriculum that aligns to standards set by the Computer Science Teachers Association and is actively used by more than 200,000 teachers across the country. Perhaps most importantly, she says the workshop experience has also changed the way she thinks about teaching generally and how she views student collaboration.

“Students experience the struggle together, and they really do bond and see each other as a resource to help each other. It’s a nice place for a kid that doesn’t stand out, to stand out,” she says. “Computer science is just another place for kids to shine. It shows them: sometimes it’s hard for you to see your own mistakes, but someone else can see it. So a lot of camaraderie occurs when students can help their partner.”

Channeling passion for teaching into CS

For other teachers like Susan Holsonback, being nominated for a workshop was just another step along her path to teaching computer science.

An educator with 17 years of experience, she started her career teaching English and then transitioned to 7th and 8th grade math for eight years at Itawamba Attendance Center and then at Mantachie High School in Mantachie, Mississippi.

Students in Susan’s class work on Unit 1 Lesson 8 of the CS Discoveries curriculum, where they design and think through an app on paper before using a computer. Photos courtesy of Susan Holsonback.

She was nominated for the Professional Learning program by a colleague who already taught computer science. After being accepted into the program, she took the CS Discoveries workshop at the University of Mississippi. Mantachie High School did not have any openings for computer science classes, so she decided to go back to Itawamba Attendance Center in Fulton, Mississippi — about 13 miles away from Mantachie High School. The 2019/2020 school year is her first time teaching computer science in the classroom.

“I was so excited to learn computer science myself,” Holsonback said. “That’s what I’ve told my students: it’s important to know more than how to keyboard. They need to know about all the opportunities available to them that learning computer science offers.”

The CS Discoveries workshop challenged her as a learner. She was new to the subject, but was so enthusiastic about teaching it that she even did an Hour of Code on her own to familiarize herself. She said even without prior knowledge, the material was manageable to grasp.

“I think maybe there was a learning curve in the workshop, but I was so excited about it that it didn’t matter,” she said. “It definitely took a little to learn, but not as much as I thought.”

She says the payoff in learning something has also helped her students grow. As they work through the CS Discoveries curriculum, she is excited by their passion.

“One thing I really like is the collaboration among the students — they’re having discussions and they’re really curious and interested in it,” she said. “More so than what I was teaching first semester, which was keyboarding, how to use tools like Google Docs and things like that.”

Take the first step toward computer science

A simple nomination was all it took to encourage Pamela, Melody and Susan to bring computer science in their classrooms. While the computer science education community has made great strides getting computer science into more and more classrooms, there’s still so much work to do before every student in every school has access to study this crucial subject.

You can be part of the movement to make this happen by nominating an educator (or yourself!) to attend a Professional Learning workshop, or apply to attend directly. Together we can give every student the opportunity to study computer science!

-Kirsten O’Brien, Code.org

Code.org

Written by

Code.org

Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade