Computer Science Resource Teacher
Baltimore County Public Schools
Photo: Receiving recognition for work in AP from the governor.
What was your own, initial experience with Computer Science?
I took AP CS A as a junior in high school (the language was Pascal!) and didn’t really understand it. My teacher was out long-term twice and I didn’t feel well prepared, so I didn’t take the AP exam. I went to Towson to major in math and secondary education. C++ was a required course and they suggested taking Visual Basic first if you didn’t feel confident enough to start with C++. I didn’t, so I enrolled in VB. I LOVED it! I took C++ the next semester and wound up teaching several times during our lecture class because the teacher who was pulled in at the last minute wasn't up-to-date on C++ programming. My lab teacher (a woman surprisingly!) approached me one day (in the bathroom, awkward!) about changing my major to CS, but I was already a sophomore and was on a scholarship for math and there was no CS education pathway, either. I graduated and taught middle school math for 3 years then transferred to Dulaney High (my alma mater) and taught math for two more years.
What was it like teaching Computer Science?
In 2007, I asked the administration if I could teach Visual basic for the 2007/2008 school year. They said if I got enough enrollment, they would run the course. I begged my math students to sign up and tell their friends about it. I wound up with 2 sections! In 2009, the AP CS A teacher decided she didn’t want to teach the class anymore. It was the end of the year, and I didn’t know Java, but the department chair asked me if I would teach it and I agreed. I used to joke that asking a VB teacher to teach Java was like asking a Spanish 1 teacher to teach French 4. The first year was a struggle but every year got better! I began to focus on recruiting female students and we started an after-school programming club. I gave a TedX talk in spring of 2015 which helped to increase awareness and female/underrepresented minority enrollment (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooug1YjxBJ0In). In 2015/2016, I piloted the AP CS Principles course with one section, and the following year there were 5! Some of my students started a STEMpower Girls club and were enrolled in my CS classes. They interviewed me for their website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxMlTggy1Yo). I started scoring the AP CS A exam in 2013 and quickly rose to be a table leader and this past year, a question leader. It is honestly the BEST PD I have ever attended and I suggest every AP teacher attend for a least one year, in person or virtually.
How did you transition to become a CS Specialist, or Resource Teacher, at the district level?
After I had been teaching CS for 10 years I started to attend some state meetings with Kara Lynch, our Supervisor for Business and Computer Science. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and how quickly CS was taking off in almost all the districts. I knew that I wanted to do more with CS but there wasn’t a district CS position yet. The position was created in spring of 2017, and I am now in my 5th year as a CS Resource Teacher, the first one in Maryland! I love working with CS teachers in grades 6 – 12, supporting them with curriculum, planning, and co-teaching, and being a member of the CTE central office team. My current goals are to make sure we have qualified teachers in all our CS classes (and retain them!), that the diversity matches the enrollment of the school, and making counselors aware of which CS courses their school offers so they can recruit students.