“I went into this program thinking that I was going to be way behind the curve.”
Larry Correll, a longtime teacher at Glasgow High School in Kentucky, had years of experience teaching challenging courses like Chemistry, Algebra, Geometry and AP Physics. He had even once considered majoring in computer science. But, when he walked into Code.org’s workshop last summer, he was nervous. Instead, he was shocked to find a room full of teachers just like himself, many with no experience in computer science at all.
“I thought it’d be a conference with thousands of programmers who had decided to become teachers. But when I got there, I realized that it was people all over the country that were just like me.”
Like most educators, Larry had presumed that teaching computer science required extensive experience. It was only after he was approached by his principal about Code.org’s professional learning program, that Larry was encouraged to give teaching computer science a shot.
Like Larry, David Vance at Glasgow Middle School was also encouraged by his principal to apply for Code.org’s Professional Learning Program and start Glasgow Middle School’s first computer science course. As a librarian and Spanish teacher, David had no computer science background, but his principal noticed David’s love for tinkering and puzzles, and saw how his combined creativity and problem solving could find a great match in computer science. “He could just tell that this program was the right fit for me and I think he had the right idea.”
And already, David is blown away by his students’ reaction to learning computer science. “I’ve never seen as many students spending time outside of school on their projects without it being a requirement in my entire career.”
“In my Spanish class, I’ve had students who didn’t finish a project have to go home and work over the weekend. That was to meet a deadline which is so different from what I see now. Now I’m seeing people who are going home because they’re actually excited about it. They come in the next day ready to show off what they have.”
At Glasgow High School, students are similarly loving their new computer science course. There, computer science is offered as an elective, and students are frequently pulled from their electives if they’re struggling elsewhere. “I do have students who are doing better in their other classes because they’re taking computer science,” says Larry. “A couple of students weren’t holding up their end in their math class, and their teachers said ‘well you know if you don’t get caught up we’re ready to pull you out of computer science until you do.’ And they straightened up pretty quick because they didn’t want to miss anything.”
Computer science is a powerful medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun, and the two teachers believe that CS is the key to keeping students engaged throughout their school career. “When students aren’t interested in their courses and what they’re learning, they turn off. I wouldn’t mind just teaching computer science because it’s so rewarding; I mean these students get to see how these computers are being used in every field out there.” Larry says.
David agrees. “This is so different from any of the other classes that I teach. I think students can be much more creative and feel a lot more freedom creating something on their own even though they’re following the curriculum.”
And what would Larry and David tell teachers who are hesitant about attending the workshop and bringing computer science to their school?
“You didn’t have to be an experienced programmer in the business world to hop in and do a good job. The curriculum is set out to level the playing field for kids who don’t have experience with programming; I felt like the Professional Learning was set up the same way for teachers.”
“It’s just a no-brainer to me. Our students need these skills.”
This is part of our ongoing “Profiles in CS” series, where we sit down and chat with people making a difference in their communities through computer science.
Find out how you can give your students the opportunity to continue to learn computer science and awaken their creativity.
Maggie Osorio, Code.org
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