CSTA and Infosys Foundation USA are proud to announce the winners of the 2019 CSTA/Infosys Foundation USA Awards for Teaching Excellence. These winners demonstrate their excellent work inspiring students to explore the computer science field; effectively engage students in learning rigorous, standards-aligned, computer science content; and a focus on broadening participation of underrepresented students in computing. 



Nimmi Arunachalam
Boca Raton, FL 

Nimmi Arunachalam is an accomplished and passionate educator with a deep commitment to STEM education. She is a Project Lead The Way (PLTW.org) Engineering and Computer Science Master Teacher, as well as a strong proponent of computer science education for all students. She incorporates project-based learning to increase student engagement in her classroom and is skilled in differentiated teaching methodologies. She was instrumental in establishing a computer science pathway of four courses at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton, Florida, consisting of AP Computer Science Principles, AP Computer Science A, AICE Computer Science, and Cybersecurity. She is also an AP Reader for AP Computer Science Principles for College Board. 

Nimmi is a strong advocate for girls in engineering and computer science; she significantly increased the enrollment of girls in her school’s engineering academy through an annual outreach event she founded: GET (Girl Engineers of Tomorrow) Day. She is well networked within the local industry and academic circles, creating opportunities to bring the industry closer to her classroom. She has effectively incorporated industry certifications (Microsoft Technology Associate – Java, Python, JavaScript, Windows OS, Security Fundamentals) as an indicator of industry skills gained by her students in her CS classroom. She has also transformed her students’ classroom experience by applying academic skills in competitive environments at the regional and national levels. Her students have competed successfully in SECME (Science, Engineering, Communication, Mathematics, Enrichment), CyberPatriot, Congressional App Challenge, ZeroRobotics, Student Astronaut Challenge, Intel Science Fair, and Google Science Fair. 

Nimmi is an engineer and M.B.A. graduate by training and began her career as a Business and Systems Analyst for a global ERP company. Her strong technical education and industry professional experience lends a real-life perspective to her teaching. Nimmi has received numerous recognitions and accolades, such as being named the 2017–18 PLTW Teacher of the Year for Computer Science, and a 2018 NCWIT (National Council for Women in Computing) Aspirations in Computing Educator Award.

Michelle Cannon HeadshotMichelle Cannon
Phoenix, AZ 

Michelle Cannon is a graduate from the University of Arizona, with a degree in biochemistry and math. After spending time doing pharmaceutical research and raising her kids, she realized that her passion was to teach and ensure all kids had a chance to be successful. She went back to get her teaching certificate and started to teach middle school science and quickly realized that students needed to develop more critical thinking skills and be given more experience in problem solving. This was when she started to take online MOOCs to learn programming and was trained through project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically) to facilitate workshops that bring computer science into science. 

Michelle quickly embraced computer science and had her school trained to be the first school in the district to offer CS to all students through their core science class. As her passion for CS grew and her desire to offer CS for all she continued to take classes and worked with code.org to facilitate workshops for middle school teachers from all over the state to bring computer science into their schools. 

She currently teaches computer science full time at CREST (the Center for Research in Engineering, Science and Technology) at Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix. She works with the students and administration to spread the word about computer science and highlight CS for All. The program at CREST is highly sought after and through the efforts of her and her colleagues, the Computer Science program is expanding and reaching a diverse population with increasing numbers of women and minorities. She is also serving on the CSTA AZ board as the treasurer where they are working hard to spread CS throughout the state and get teachers trained in computer science through free and low-cost workshops and conferences. 


Elaine Griggs Headshot Elaine Griggs 
Pembroke, MA 

Elaine Griggs is a secondary math teacher teaching computer science, starting with AP CS A since 2006. She started her teaching career in Haverhill, Massachusetts, after a career as an analyst in the biotechnology device industry. Students at HHS led the need for robotics and got involved in the International Competition — BotBall. There is still a very active BotBall team at Haverhill High as well as Pembroke High School, where she now teaches, since 2014. Pembroke Robotics also takes part in MIT's ZERO Robotics international program coding SPHERES in simulated zero gravity. Teaching app development with AP CSP (CS Principles) she coaches Technovation, after piloting it in MA — an International App development challenge for girls, and participates in the CAC — Congressional App Challenge another Mobile app competition. She strongly advocates for Girls in Computer Science. Elaine is involved with CSTA locally and a National Facilitator for ECS PD — Exploring Computer Science. Elaine is excited about the two new ECS units in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and eTextiles. She will be piloting eTextile creativity in her mini-maker space in her classroom next year. Elaine loves that by in teaching computer science at the high school, she sees a high level of student engagement, as students bring their creativity to life.


Jonathan LoPorto HeadshotJonathan LoPorto
Boston, MA

Jonathan LoPorto is a computer science teacher and CS pathway lead at the Dearborn STEM Academy, a 6–12 Boston Public School. Before becoming a teacher, Jonathan was the operations manager for Irrational Games which notably created the BioShock series. There, he saw first-hand the demand and meritocracy of the hiring process in the software industry. He left his job at Irrational Games to work in underserved schools with an aim to introduce CS at an early age and incorporate it as a core class. 

At the Dearborn STEM Academy, Jonathan has created a 6th through 12th grade pipeline where all students take computer science in every grade. More recently, Jonathan had been working on creating a computer science pathway. In the CS pathway, students’ 11th and 12th grade English and Social Sciences classes will work in tandem with their CS classes to give students a much more rounded education in the field.  Along with teaching sound problem solving and critical thinking skills in his classes, Jonathan incorporates corporate partnerships to help students gain the professional skills to feel comfortable in the industry.


Laura Ramirez 
San Francisco, CA 

Born and raised in South East Los Angeles, Laura has always held high standards for the type of support and impact she has when engaging with youth. Growing up she would commute to the Bay Area to visit family, and as a child, she recognized the type of positive impact that was needed in her community and the communities she would pass by on that six-hour commute to San Francisco. With her goals set, she worked full time to put herself through college and graduated from Cal State Los Angeles, earning a Bachelor’s and Master's degree in Education. 

Laura soon became an elementary school teacher in the same place she had been a student in. When an opportunity emerged to teach math and science to middle schoolers, she didn’t hesitate. This granted her the needed exposure to kick start her career in the field of technology integration in underdeveloped communities. Her students went on to showcase their tech projects at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

During this time, the Los Angeles school district was laying off an excessive amount of educators or more commonly known as pink-slips notices. Laura, being the unfortunate recipient of a pink-slip, she took an opportunity to move to San Francisco, where she would call her second home and became a Tech Integration Specialist at a K-8 school. Having seen how hesitant her female-identified students and Latinx students struggled to coexist with technology and computer science concepts, she advocated her school administrators to create a group where girls and non-gender-conforming students are comfortable taking risks to solve problems and express themselves through computer science projects. The Tech Chicas club was born. An army of young girls resurrected to take on and fix the school’s tech issues and learn how to drill, solder, problem solve and more importantly, gain growth mindset skills for a sense of belonging in the tech industry. Recently, Laura became National Board Certified and is currently receiving a computer science credential at San Francisco State. 


Honorable Mentions 


Michelle G. Lee 
San Francisco, CA

Michelle G. Lee is a Computer Science Content Specialist with San Francisco Unified School District who centers the curriculum she writes and the instruction she delivers in student choice, student voice, and creative expression. Over the past two years, she introduced over 1,100 students to computer science in semester and trimester-long courses and she coached their 60+ K-5 teachers to integrate computational thinking concepts across the curriculum. Michelle delivered CSTA 2018’s closing keynote, lead-wrote the Kindergarten curriculum, and is realizing her district’s goal of providing comprehensive PK-12 CS instruction by launching the early childhood computer science program.


Lanna Mack
New Haven, CT 

Lanna Mack is the computer science and video game design teacher at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, Connecticut. She is extremely flattered to receive an Honorable Mention in this year's CSTA / Infosys Foundation USA Awards for Teaching Excellence.

Lanna started at Wilbur Cross High School in 2013 by teaching a single video game design elective. Since then, she has developed that elective into an entire computer science program with two levels of video game design classes, AP® Computer Science Principles, several independent study offerings, and teaching assistant opportunities for seniors.  Lanna has also been an advisor for three of Wilbur Cross High School's computer & technology after-school programs, including the Girls Go CyberStart Cyber Security Competition, the Girls Who Code Club, and the Robotics & Technology Club.

A self-taught programmer, Lanna often wonders if her life might have taken a different path if she'd had a teacher who encouraged her to pursue her interests in technology sooner.  That experience is her motivation to make sure the students at Wilbur Cross High School have an early opportunity to consider careers in computers and technology. As a result, Wilbur Cross High School was one of only 685 high schools in the country to be recognized with the College Board's AP® Computer Science Female Diversity Award for attaining outstanding female student representation in AP® Computer Science Principles for 2018. Lanna was also recognized by the National Center for Women & Information Technology earlier this year for her efforts to increase access to computer science for young women with the 2019 NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Connecticut Affiliate Educator Award.

Lanna holds a Master's Degree in Teaching & Educational Technology from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, as well as Bachelors' Degrees in Business Management and Music Performance from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio


Andrea Salas Headshot Andrea Salas 
Martinez, CA 

Andrea Salas is a budding computer science teacher in Martinez, California. Three years ago, after teaching math and statistics for over two decades, she started the computer science pathway at the sole comprehensive high school in her school district. The pathway boasts an introductory course and two AP courses, along with competitive, after-school robotics and cybersecurity teams. She is passionate about encouraging young women to explore their creative side through the study of computer science and believes that every student in every school should have literacy in this field that reaches every part of their lives. Andrea credits the Martinez community, Code.org, and NCWIT for being instrumental in helping her to grow the computer science pathway at her school and achieve gender parity in all its courses.


In 2018, Andrea was named as the NCWIT Educator Award winner for the Northern California region and also as a Contra Costa County Finalist for Teacher of the Year. 

Kristie Steinlicht Headshot Kristie Steinlicht 
Ventura, CA 

Kristie Steinlicht teaches Math and STEAM electives at Anacapa Middle School in the Ventura Unified School District. Anacapa is a Title I suburban school which serves a socio-economically, culturally, and linguistically diverse population. The first middle school to be recognized with the California Association for Bilingual Education Seal of Excellence, Anacapa has a Spanish/English Two-Way Immersion program which integrates STEAM in order to provide opportunities for traditionally underserved students. 

Kristie has presented locally and at the state level and has been awarded numerous grants for STEAM. She has received several awards including VC Innovates STEM Champion, the PLTW Gateway Teacher of the Year, and the Ventura County Math Council Educator of the Year. In addition, Kristie’s Anacapa STE(A)M program has been recognized as a VC Innovates Golden Gear recipient and received the code.org/CSTA Computer Science Outreach Award.

Leon Tynes 
Phoenix, AZ 

Leon Tynes is a technology educator at the Academy of Math and Science Desert Sky in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the former Technology Department head at the Engineering and Science University Magnet School in Connecticut. Leon has flipped his classroom to maximizelearning in his 3D Modeling, Digital Media, Mobile App Development, and Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles courses for the past five years. Dedicated to immersing his students in all aspects of technology, he has successfully integrated science and engineering concepts, which has facilitated numerous student awards. He has five degrees including a Juris Doctor from the University of New Hampshire and a Master’s in Education from the University of New Haven.