I am a retired educator. In January it will be two years – and I have never been busier.
I am a retired educator. In January it will be two years – and I have never been busier. Twelve years ago, when I was teaching middle school I began a journey that, while it is not over, has culminated into a variety of memorable opportunities for me as a teacher and mentor.
As a Family and Consumer Science (Home Economics) teacher, I am not an obvious choice for a computer science teacher but that oversight would be a mistake! I started teaching FACS with STEM in mind. I took classes from professional Chefs and brought those lessons into my classroom every week. I invited guest speakers, treated cooking as a chemistry, nutrition, art, and life skills class, and textiles as an engineering and computer science class. That mentality led me to teach students how to sew electrical circuits and look at cooking as a way to master a complex set of skills that offered them independence, manners, and applied math. My approach also offered me a variety of opportunities to partner with the science department to infuse class with outdoor hands-on experiments that made learning fun!
As I continued to explore ways to incorporate computer science into my class I created an after-school girl’s coding club, became a robotics coach (First and VEX), and introduced the micro:bit to my textile class. Every step of the way was a chance to expand the exposure of my Title 1 students to the transformative experiences in the world of STEM. I did not have a background in computer science – but I did not let that stop me. I found programs to attend as a teacher and sponsored field trips for students. Together we managed to win state and national awards at First, VEX, KidWind, FCCLA, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). These efforts have led the students that I mentored to major or minor in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and software engineering.
In addition to students’ success, my after-school program has grown from a single class to a nonprofit organization and the students that have worked with me for 4-8 years have developed into professional peer-to-peer educators. They have written and delivered their lesson plans to thousands of kids in the US and India. In fact, our organization has grown from a single middle school to a multi-state organization and now, with the support of Zoom, into a nonprofit with international members.
Our webpage is being updated to reflect our new status but I would like to emphasize that I could NOT have done any of this work without partnering with my students and listening to their voices. I can code in Scratch but my students know how to code a variety of robots, AND in Scratch, AND in Java, AND in Python! They have also presented their student-developed lesson plan at the 2018 Scratch Conference; presented at ITEEA, a national conference for teachers; and have accomplished a variety of achievements. These include winning Coca-Cola’s $20,000 and Amazon’s $40,000 Future Engineering Scholarships, and producing a 10-week Scratch seminar that was delivered over a YouTube Livestream that has more than 25,000 views from students in India, Nigeria, Dubai, and other places around the world.
I am not a traditional computer science instructor but I know how to develop an intergenerational collaboration that creates a win/win. My students are inspired to learn at a deeper level, building a resume that will open doors for them while simultaneously supporting other students. This peer-to-peer training model can establish a connection that motivates a student who wasn’t interested in CS to reconsider their decision. Our work has given a group of mostly female students the opportunity to win scholarships to continue their CS education while giving me the experiences that facilitated my ability to become NCWIT’s 2021 National Aspirations in Computing Educator Award recipient.
This fall, I encourage you to invite your 7-12 grade female, genderqueer, or non-binary students to apply for the Award for Aspirations in Computing (by Nov. 5, 2021). Not only do you support your students when you endorse their application, but you also become eligible to apply for the NCWIT AiC Educator Award (by Dec. 6, 2021) – an absolute win/win!
Over 17,000 students and over 500 educators have been recognized as recipients of the Award for Aspirations in Computing. The benefits of being an award recipient include a physical award (always fun!) in addition to building a supportive community and supporting diversity in CS (#CS4all).
Computer science needs each and every type of teacher that is willing to take on the challenges associated with supporting students in learning and engaging in CS. If you help students learn CS you are a CS teacher. The benefits of diversity cannot be overstated – it takes a village to raise a child; and it takes a variety of educators to create a STEM pipeline. I am honored to have been nominated as the CSTA Awards Committee Chair/Co-Chair this year. I am looking forward to hearing all about the wonderful things you and your students are doing! I am positive that learning from each other will make us all better teachers! #CS4All #equitymatters
About the Author
Angela DeHart is a retired secondary teacher turned Founder and CEO of the STEM Impressionists Program (SIP). During her 12-year teaching career she was a middle school FACS (Home Ec) turned STEM teacher. Ms. DeHart’s innovative nature, her steadfast dedication to continuous learning, and her passion for STEM has inspired the creation of a number of STEM opportunities for students: participation in STEM competitions (SeaPerch, KidWind, etc.), a week of student-directed activities focused on promoting the Hour of Code, and the creation of a STEM group called the STEM Impressionists.
The accomplishments of the 8-year STEM program include students using their creativity and coding skills to teach their self-created robotics curriculum at George Mason University’s summer FOCUS STEM Camp two years in a row; being invited to present at MIT’s Scratch Conference; presenting at ITEEA’s national conferences multiple times; being state and national NCWIT winners, being chosen as a QuestBridge and MLK scholarship winner; and delivering a live stream, 10-week Scratch class to students in New Delhi, India.
Angela invites you to visit the STEM Impressionists website (http://stemimpressionists.org/). It is in the process of being redesigned and should be updated by October 6th! SIP’s Twitter page ( https://twitter.com/dehartSTEM) which lists SIPS events in chronological order; you can also check out student work and major accomplishments. Last but not least, please reach out to her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dehartstem/). Not only does she list current events, as soon as the website redesign is released you will be able to visit the students that are in the STEM Impressionists mentor group and take an in-depth look at the activities SIP has facilitated over the last 8 years!