Where do you teach? What sort of school is it?I am at Patrick Henry High School which is north of Richmond VA. My school is a mix of a small town and rural. Many of my students have over an hour bus ride home in the afternoons. We have a reverse bell curve - many wealthy families and many poor. It is not unusual to have students that do not have electricity or running water at home. At least 1/3 of my kids do not have Internet access outside of school.
We are very unusual in my county in that every high school has a full time computer science teacher. We are the only district in Virginia that has computer science in all high schools and middle schools.
How did you get started teaching computer science?My first year I taught math. The Friday before the students returned to school my second year I was called down to the principals office and told that on Tuesday I was the school's new computer science teacher. I started with APCS in Pascal A and B, and an intro course in QBasic.
Describe the computer science curriculum at your school. What courses do you have and what are the focuses of each?We have:
- International Baccalaureate Computer Science, both the SL and HL levels
- AP Computer Science
- Intermediate Programming in C++
- Introduction to Programming
What is your overall teaching philosophy? Project based learning? Flipped classroom? In short, what makes your CS program “your CS program?”Everyone should learn computer science. It is my job to translate the material so that every student in my classroom has an experience that meets them where they are and invites them into the magic of computer science.
We do a lot of project based learning and inquiry activities. In the AP and IB classes I do flipped instruction - which takes some creativity when so many of our students do not have the Internet outside of our building!
What is the biggest challenge in teaching CS at your school?I am very lucky, my school and district have always been very supportive. We have had the APCS course since the 1980's and they have remained committed to offering the classes despite the deep cuts brought by the recent recession.
As for challenges, it is equity of access. While some students have computers, tablets, etc., many do not. That is the beauty of computer science , it has the ability to take any student where they are are open up a whole new world.
What is administration’s support (or lack of support) like at your school?Administration is great. Despite the cuts, which have been deep in Virginia, I have a well equipped lab. They are great about helping me attend conferences and support other teachers in our Computer Science community here in Virginia.
How do you measure success for your program? For your students?When they have that moment that they realize computer science is used to MAKE things they use everyday. Computer Science is a craft and I want all of my students to be able to express themselves
What is the one thing you like to talk about regarding your program that I haven’t already asked?I am so excited to see the growth in our field. I deeply believe the access to computer science is deeply tied to our future as a nation. Every student in our country should have access.
More Rebecca Dovi on the Internet
- School name and web site: Patrick Henry High School http://hcps.us/phhs
- Personal web site: http://supercs.net/
- Blog: http://supercomputerscience.blogspot.com/
- Twitter: @superCompSci
- Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/beakknits/teach-computer-science/
For a full list of interviews in this series please see CS Educator Interviews: The Index