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Derrick Blackwell, Sr. 

Computer Science Teacher at Matthew Henson Middle School


I did not choose to teach Computer Science; teaching Computer Science chose me! While employed with General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), I was given the task of creating a training program to teach all our onsite technicians the CompTIA Security + information to pass the certification exam. This was due to the 8570 Rule put into place under the Obama Administration. I took on the task and created a training program where I met with the staff for a half hour each day for lunch. Within 3 months, I achieved 100% certification of all staff. I then recognized I had the gift to read material and develop curriculum from my readings to teach the material to others. 

I then interviewed and became an Adjunct Professor at Stratford University where I taught Project Management, Business Management, Collegiate Writing, and Computer Science courses. Unknowingly, this was all a pathway to get me to where I am! Shortly after GDIT lost several billets on the contract I was on where I served as the IT Move Project Coordinator, I was hired onto another GDIT contract as a Software Test Engineer. This helped me to expand my coding skills as my sole job was to find and report flaws with software for our customers. This was a 3-year endeavor before the company lost this contract as well. It was at this point that I became tired of working for a contracting organization. I gave over 13 years to an organization where I had to apply and interview for openings within the organization.  

After the loss of this second contract, I then decided to teach more classes at Stratford University as I no longer had a day job to report to. Then, I received an email advertising Charles County Public Schools needed teachers for middle and high school. I applied to teach Business Management at North Point and attended the hiring event to meet the principal. Upon meeting the principal and speaking with her, I learned the position was recently filled. I then received a call from one of the representatives in the HR department who advised me that there were several middle schools who had openings for Computer Science teachers. I agreed to interview with the schools and Matthew Henson selected me as their choice.  

Halfway through my first year, I had thoughts of leaving as I saw just how disrespectful the students were and how ill-mouthed, they were to one another as well. I spoke with my colleagues, Mr. Max Bair and Ms. Janet Thomas, who reassured me and told me to give it some time- both to find my groove as a teacher, and for my students to learn how to respect themselves and others. Teaching became important to me once I saw more than 75% of each class not only took to my style of teaching, but also found outside opportunities to grow their Computer Science knowledge. Moreover, computers are now a part of all our daily lives in which I can relate any topic to Computer Science to ensure my students are well-educated. Ensuring my students are prepared for high school and beyond is my mission! Teaching my students the EarSketch platform has become a great tool to fulfill my mission. 

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.