Wednesday, July 03, 2013

CS Educator Interview: Myra Deister

Today’s computer science teacher interview is with Myra Deister from Sunny Hills High School  in sunny California! As you will read Myra faces some challenges in her school. Some are more easy to overcome than others but she works pretty hard at it all. Quite active beyond her school, Myra is an At-Large member of the CSTA Board of Directors.

Where do you teach? What sort of school is it?

urban high school in southern CA with a diverse student population

How did you get started teaching computer science?

After teaching math in a junior high school I transferred to a high school in the same district.  I had planned on returning to college to earn my masters degree in math but had issues with the faculty at the local state college.  I looked into a computer science masters instead.  I took some courses at the community college as a prerequisite and was very successful. 
There were no computer courses at the high school where I was teaching but a neighboring district was advertising for math teachers so I applied.  I was offered a position teaching math and computer applications.  I accepted the position.  From teaching computer applications I progressed to teaching BASIC, FORTRAN, Pascal, Visual Basic, and then Java.

Describe the computer science curriculum at your school. What courses do you have and what are the focuses of each?

I currently teach:
Introduction to Programming  I am always trying something new with this class.  I have used Alice, Karel J Robot, Scratch, BYOB, Some of Dan Garcia's Beauty and Joy of Computing.  I am always looking for something new to try with these students.  My current issue I have is that they are scheduled in the same period as AP Computer Science A. This class is taught as a hybrid class and I do try to do flipped teaching with readings and videos. This is a one semester course.
Visual Basic  I currently use an outdated textbook that I have to supplement for this class.  I also teach this class as a hybrid class and I use videos and reading to do some flipping.  I have Finch robots I want to incorporate this year.  This is a one semester course.
AP Computer Science  I also use a hybrid approach to this class.  I use Alice and Media Comp as the curriculum as well as some of Stacy Armstrong's A+ curriculum.  I also hope to incorporate some of the Oracle curriculum this year.  I  incorporate some projects in this class but would like to include more. 
Computer Science AB  This class covers Java Data Structures and is a dual credit course where the student can earn 3 units of credit from the local state college.  The students in this class because it is scheduled the same time as AP Computer Science are expected to do much of the work on their own.  I use a combination of the Litvins' textbooks, ICT Curriculum and Stacy Armstrong's curriculum. 

What is your overall teaching philosophy? Project based learning? Flipped classroom? In short, what makes your CS program “your CS program?”

Last school year I received a certificate in Online Teaching because I had been using an LMS to deliver most of the curriculum.  I am moving more toward a flipped classroom as I incorporate more videos into my LMS.  I do lecture and expect the students to use Cornell Notes. 

What is the biggest challenge in teaching CS at your school?

My biggest challenge is recruiting students and retaining them.  The push to include diverse students is great but I have found that I need new ways to reach these students.

What is administration’s support (or lack of support) like at your school?

I have books that are 10+ years old.  After I attended Grace Hopper in Portland, one suggestion I received was to mail home letters rather than have students deliver them.  At my own expense I sent home over 100 letters.  I received several calls from parents inquiring about computer science classes and stating that they had no idea that cs was offered on my campus. 
When I shared this with my principal the reaction I received was that my program is old and she is only promoting the new programs.  Also, when planning the new engineering program, computer science was never considered.  I spoke to the chairperson of the engineering program and he always says he will get back with me.  I hope to speak to the chairperson of the Art Department to see if I can have some of the Media Comp projects included in his Art Show.  We will see...
Last summer, however, I did ask the school board to recognize Computer Science Week and they agreed.  At the first board meeting in December, computer science students from each of the high school were recognized.  I was thanked by parents and teachers at that board meeting for making that request. 

How do you measure success for your program? For your students?

I measure success with my enrollment.  If I can maintain 2 computer classes, I am thrilled.  I would like to grow my program but haven't figured out how to do that. 
I feel I am successful when I hear from former students and they have graduated with a degree in CS with a job in CS. 
Success for my students is having an appreciation for computer science.
For a full list of interviews in this series please see CS Educator Interviews: The Index

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