Nick Yates: CS teacher, facilitator, and CSTA officer
Patterson High School, Baltimore City Public Schools
How did you first get into CS and CS education?
I dabbled in CS in high school (programming on the TI-83 Graphing Calculator) and in college (I took an introductory CS course and wrote some code to search for patterns as part of completing my senior number theory research thesis). But I really started getting into computer science and CS education when I found that the topics I enjoyed teaching the most in the engineering classes I taught were the ones most connected to programming (robotics, automation, programming the manufacturing machines). I started taking some free online courses (MOOCs) like Intro to Python and Machine Learning, through Coursera and Udacity, around 2010-12. In 2014, I attended the the Exploring Computer Science training in Boston through code.org, and then worked with my colleagues and my school's leadership to add one new CS course each year until we had a full pathway. As I was learning more, and teaching more CS to my students, I decided I needed a deeper understanding of CS to be able to teach it better, so I enrolled in the Online Masters of Science in Computer Science program through Georgia Tech, and completed that program in 2019.
Who influenced and encouraged you on your journey?
One of my main influences has been my colleague: engineering and robotics teacher Ms. Sharon Ball. She started the Hour of Code at Patterson High School before I did, and encouraged me to try it with my students, too. She shared information about statewide CS summits and nationwide email lists to sign up for. She encouraged the growth of our CS pathway alongside the Engineering pathway (she and I both teach courses in both pathways, something that is rare in CTE).
Why is the CSTA important to you and why you have invested much of your time over the years to keep it going?
CSTA (the Computer Science Teacher's Association maryland.csteachers.org) is important as a professional society for computer science teachers, just like NCTM for math or NSTA for science, but probably even moreso, because CS teachers are often the only ones in their building teaching that content area, while other subjects have multiple teachers per building. CSTA allows teachers to build community, learn from one another, and advocate for themselves and their programs. I truly believe that we as CS teachers have a stronger voice when we work together. The CSTA conferences I have attended have been some of the most relevant conferences I have ever been to! And CSTA membership has a base level that is free, unlike some of those other professional societies.
I was asked to serve as Secretary of the Maryland Chapter of CSTA in 2017, and carried on in that role through 2020. In 2020, I was elected to the position of Treasurer of the chapter. I do feel that we have grown significantly as a chapter in recent years, instituting monthly meetings of the general membership, increasing our number of statewide leaders, beginning several subcommittees, and revitalizing our website and social media presence.