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mousumi chatterjee

Mousumi Chatterjee


Montgomery County Schools

Computer Science teacher at Wheaton High School 




How did you get into this area? 

I started my career as a high school biology teacher. I was happy with my job when my mom’s father suggested that I should study computer science. My dad’s idea was that one must be very good in mathematics to become successful in computer science; I believed the same, so we could not agree with my grandfather. But my grandfather, who was on his deathbed, insisted that I could do it. With a lot of hesitation, I finally I took up a 3-year course in computer science.

I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the advice of my grandfather. He was a visionary. Though teaching remained my passion, I worked as a software developer for some years. Finally, I decided that I belonged in the classroom, where I could teach and convince the new generation that computer science is for everybody. In order to accomplish that, all I need is to understand where the challenges in learning are and how I can help the students to overcome them. 


What are some successes and challenges you have experienced in getting to where you are now?

My main objective is to make every student visualize concepts. I have adopted various strategies to help them do this, one of which is enactment. For example, when teaching loops I enact the whole process with cutouts and props I have made. This has been a successful strategy.  

Another successful method is to play puzzles with code. Students take a while to get used to writing syntax. I give them a problem with the matching code in the form of cutouts, which are not in order. The students are then asked to arrange the code in the right order. This is a great group activity.

It is sometimes difficult to find manipulatives for computer science. Recently, one of my colleagues showed me how we can use pill boxes to explain and manipulate strings and arrays. I have learned that we can become more creative in making or finding our own manipulatives.

The other challenge is finding quality free resources for computer science at a high school level. On the one hand, there are good resources available- but they can be expensive and we cannot expect all school systems to be able to pay for them. On the other, the free versions come with their own set of challenges. We try to mix and match resources, sometimes bringing in home-grown materials such as notes, worksheets, and quizzes to the classroom.


What's going well for you now? Any advice or suggestions for others? What are you looking forward to?

I am proud of all my students who graduate every year from Wheaton High School with an additional certificate from the Academy of Information Technology. Our department gives students the opportunity to complete a four-year academic pathway in Information Technology. They can earn college credits, do a course in cybersecurity, or learn to develop websites. Our students understand that there are many ways they can be successful in computer science and that they don’t have to stick to just one area. I am proud that our school has been able to open many avenues for our students to learn and achieve.

I am also proud of my students' participation in competitions, where many of them have won awards and scholarships.

I work with a lot of great minds in my school, as well as across MCPS. Collaboration, discussion, and sharing are important for our collective learning. Discussions such as “What do you do when…?” or “how did you …?” have helped us to resolve learning challenges in many ways. Working solo is not an option; collaboration is an important aspect of educational work culture. I also try to provide opportunities to students to problem-solve and work on projects together. This year, I am the only teacher for Computer Programming 1 in my building. Eventually, I found out that there are many more teachers in this same challenging position and started talking with them. We formed a group across the school system that meets virtually at least once a month to discuss strategies, share resources, and so on. This is working great. My suggestion is to connect with other teachers, even if they're from different schools.

I would love to see computer science included in the curriculum of every school from the elementary level. There are good resources available for beginners, including Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Micro:bit, all of which provide engaging, hands-on activities for younger students. We cannot expect to be successful in bringing CS to primary education without trying. I also hope that older students will get more internship opportunities while completing computer science courses in high school.

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
MCCE received initial support from the National Science Foundation, (MSP)2 Grant No. 0831970.