“Computer Science is a liberal art: it’s something that everybody should be exposed to and everyone should have a mastery of to some extent.”— Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer.
I am a passionate teacher at a Title I school with many challenges. I love my students and I have dedicated my career to impacting their learning in positive ways, engaging them in rewarding studies that encourage them to set college and career goals.
As a Career Tech teacher for almost two decades, I’ve taught a variety of business and technical courses over the span of my own career. Five years ago, I made the decision to push myself out of my teaching “comfort zone” and began the hard work necessary to become fully qualified as a Computer Science teacher.
My motivation? I agree with Steve Jobs. I strongly believe that every student in Alabama – including students who have traditionally been overlooked in this regard – should have the opportunity to learn Computer Science.
Computer Science for Alabama: Becoming a Lead Learner
In January of 2014, I received an invitation to participate in a project entitled “Computer Science for Alabama” (CS4Alabama) funded by a National Science Foundation grant to develop and evaluate a model program and pilot a Computer Science (CS) Principles Course.
That course is now an approved College Board Advanced Placement Course. This project provided a three year-long professional development experience in which I received both virtual and face-to-face mentoring and support from Teacher Leaders with a background in Computer Science.
There were three professional learning cohorts, and I was a part of cohort two. The training associated with this initiative provided the catalyst that transformed me from a Business Education Teacher using an antiquated model of teaching technology to a dynamic Computer Science “Lead Learner.”
Effective Teachers Are Always Learning More
The framers of this project understood that the CS4Alabama initiative could not be a stand-alone professional development opportunity. To grow and expand a statewide cadre of capable and committed CS teachers, it would have to be a systematic process.
Consequently, state education leaders continued to extend training initiatives that were invaluable for me. Through a partnership with Code.org and the A+ College Ready program of A+ Education Partnership, I received training to use Code.org’s online curriculum that provides emerging CS teachers with a blueprint to successfully teach AP Computer Science Principles. The initial training started in 2016 and is ongoing. This model has been extremely successful not only for myself but for many teachers all across Alabama.
The Proof Is in the Product
In 2018, the AP CSP exam was offered at my rural high school for the first time. Seven of the eight students who took the exam achieved passing scores. This was no anomaly – recently minted CS teachers all across our state saw similar results. Alabama’s pioneer CS education leaders also planted the seed within us to become Teacher Leaders and help grow CS within our school districts and state as a whole with their support.
I took on that challenge. Currently I am working as a Facilitator for Code.org through A+ College Ready. I am a also a Teacher Leader for the Exploring Computer Science for Alabama project and a Teacher Leader/Mentor for the upcoming Legacy Project to encourage African American girls across the state to learn coding and computer science.
Five years ago I strived to be a good Business Education teacher working hard to equip my students with the skills needed to use computer software with proficiency. Today, I am a “Lead Learner” Computer Science teacher empowering my students to become “Creators of Software.”
My goal is to continue to grow as a CS teacher, always pushing myself out of my comfort zone to offer courses that will make it possible for every student, in Steve Jobs’ words, to “achieve some mastery” and take full advantage of the many opportunities Computer Science offers.
Currently, the Alabama Legislature is considering HB 216 to ensure that all K-12 schools in Alabama offer computer science courses. Click here to contact your state senator and tell them to VOTE YES on this bill!
Pam McClendon teaches Exploring Computer Science, IT Fundamentals, Introduction to Computer Science (through a Teals Partnership), and Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles at Oak Grove High School in Jefferson County Schools. She is also a teacher leader for Exploring Computer Science (ECS) with the University of Tuskegee. She served as a member of Governor Kay Ivey’s Advisory Council on Computer Education.
Pam has been teaching for 17 years with the Jefferson County School System. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration Degree at Faulkner University and her Master of Education at Auburn University at Montgomery. She also earned her National Board Certification in Career Tech in 2010.