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Nora Blasko

Maryland Computer Science Teacher and Club Leader

 

Nora earned her undergraduate degree in Engineering and started her career in the field of engineering, in spite of the fact that she has always been drawn to teaching. She thought about becoming a teacher, but one of her high school teachers discouraged her from going into teaching and stressed that there were so many opportunities for women in technology.

After working in the IT industry for a number of years, she decided to get a Master's degree in Education. There was no option to become a CS teacher, so she chose math as her specialty area. Nora got the chance to teach a CS programming course along with STEM and Math classes soon after switching from industry to teaching. She built the program up at her school to offer more CS courses and was able to add AP CS in addition to introductory classes. As part of the original Maryland CSTA and CS Matters curriculum development team, Nora has been a leader in Maryland from the start of advocating for CS Education. 

Nora has always sought out and created many additional opportunities for her students with an interest in CS. She created various computer clubs and quickly put a team together to compete in the SMECO computer bowl (Southern Maryland) with just a few dedicated students. Ever since that first experience, her teams and opportunities have been growing. This past year she had an all-girl team that came in first with a group of girls that learned and worked together for years. 

 Nora and GWC students

Nora and the winning SMECO team.

After discovering that if you have an all-girl team participating in Cyberpatiots the contest is free, Nora worked hard to recruit female students and it snowballed from there. After a successful first year, one of the girls on the team decided she wanted to lead her own team. With a lot of support from The Patuxent Partnership the teams are growing and thriving. 

One female student who started taking CS classes as a freshman agreed to lead a Girls Who Code club with a friend when she was a sophomore. The club keeps getting better each year. They did outreach to Brownie troops and the girl who started the club got an internship with Google as a graduating senior because of her experience and taking the initiative. 

Nora loves learning. She really enjoys trying something new and so every year of teaching there was always a new class to prepare. When offered the opportunity to add Artificial Intelligence to her teaching expertise, she jumped right in. It's exciting to see that high school students who have never taken a programming class are able to work on a Machine Learning project with only 3 weeks of summer camp and be excited about it. The AI for All camp is such an immersive program. Even though it was remote last summer, students still made lifelong connections and got engaged in the projects.  AI opens up a lot of opportunities. Students have created such interesting projects with interactive activities and machine learning such as teaching a computer with machine vision to identify poisonous snakes or recognize letters and words in sign language.

The CS teacher community including CSTA-MD and other groups is a source of support and inspiration. Connecting with people across multiple platforms and contexts like social media provides great ideas, resources, and opportunities for networking that keep ideas and excitement flowing.

 

Dianne O'Grady-Cunniff, dogrady at usmd dot edu
Director, Maryland Center for Computing Education

Dr. Megean Garvin, mgarvin at usmd dot edu
Director of Research, Maryland Center for Computing Education

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Maryland Center for Computing Education
3300 Metzerott Rd. Adelphi, MD 20783 http://cs4md.com
MCCE received initial support from the National Science Foundation, (MSP)2 Grant No. 0831970.