Posted: Thu, 12/03/2020 - 1:34 pm EST
Each month, we highlight a member of the CS for All Teachers community.
Name: Carol Ramsey
Workplace: Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders
Years in education: 5
Years teaching computer science: 5
TEACHING COMPUTER SCIENCE (CS)
What interests you about CS?
I like to solve puzzles and computer science is a series of interconnected puzzles that are always changing.
How did you start teaching CS? Do you have a background in CS?
I ended up in CS through a series of fortunate accidents. When I was young, I didn't think that I could possibly do something so technical, even though there was evidence all around me that I could. Through a series of scheduling and counseling errors, I got certified to teach computer science in 1989. Then I taught CS in junior colleges, got a computer science degree and worked as a software developer for 20 years. Last year was the first time I put my certification to use, as a high school computer science teacher.
How have your CS students inspired you? What is your favorite CS project you have completed with your students?
I'm inspired by how challenging teaching can be. People are far more difficult than programs! I'm learning every day, how to build the 90-minute experience, how to read the room (even over Zoom), and how to be supportive and challenging at the same time. My favorite work with students is seeing their eyes light up when they realize they can program, when they had been convinced that it wasn't for them.
How do you recruit students into your CS classes?
I'm lucky. I teach CS Principles, and it is required at my school for all 9th graders. I also have an awesome percentage of females, because I teach in an all-girls school. Easiest recruiting ever! As the CS program grows with elective courses, I'll have to think more about this.
CS EDUCATION COMMUNITY
How do other teachers, administrators, and community members get excited about CS?
Show the numbers. While our school has committed to CS in a meaningful way, the district has very low numbers for CS access and enrollment, even though we are in a city where many parents work in technology.
What excites you most about the current state of CS education in the US?
There is great potential, but I wish the movement had leadership from the government at a national level. Without that, it feels like the community is working very hard to change one school at a time, at a pace that will take many lifetimes before every student knows the basics of CS. This is a lost opportunity, for education and business, for both progressives and conservatives.
What do you enjoy most about participating in CS for All Teachers?
I have enjoyed the people I have met. I have learned a lot by being on the same calls with so many smart, experienced and talented teachers.
Besides the CS for All Teachers community of practice, what is your favorite CS tool or resource?
I really enjoy the activity-based approach of Code.org's CSP curriculum, supported by various widgets and simulators. The combination of the activities and tools encourages curiosity, experimenting and engagement. Sometimes students don't even know learning is happening, until we wrap-up and they see all the ideas come together.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to potential CS educators?
The CS content is important, but your most important work isn't about CS at all. It's about building relationships with students and crafting a 90-minute experience that works for them. Take time to be reflective, learn from others, and get better every day.
TELL US MORE!
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Finding work that I love, no matter how impractical it can be at times.
Write a short poem describing what CS is like or what CS means to you:
Annoying, tedious... elegant, beautiful
Curiosity, determination... patterns, connections
Good jobs, good pay... independence, only get married if I want to
Understand the future, not all, but some
Enough to be worried, enough to pay attention
Another puzzle to solve
What do you do to recharge after a long day (or week, month, year, etc.) of teaching?
Walk the dog in the morning and read at night, bookends for the day, to keep me going when one day is harder than the others.