Posted: Tue, 11/16/2021 - 10:09 am EST
Each month, we highlight a member of the CS for All Teachers community.
Name: Michele Lombardi
Occupation: Middle School & Upper School Computer Science Teacher
Workplace: The Ellis School
Years in education: 11
Years teaching computer science: 7
TEACHING COMPUTER SCIENCE (CS)
What interests you about CS?
Computer science is deeply embedded in every aspect of our lives and every industry. There's truly something for everyone from the artistic to the technical to the world-changing. On a personal level, I love the satisfaction that comes from success after struggling through a challenge and iterating over a solution.
How did you start teaching CS? Do you have a background in CS?
I started out, as many CS teachers have, as a math teacher. I'd been teaching math for 5 years when my administrator announced to the department that we'd be adding a CS course to the curriculum and asked if anyone would want to teach it. As the person everyone in the department went to with technology questions, they all looked at me! Though I had previously taken some programming courses in college, it had been a long time and I had no knowledge of the vastness of the field. That spring and summer, I attended a lot of professional development, worked my way through a few different curricula, and talked to anyone I could about what the curriculum might look like. I fell in love with teach CS that first year, but it's wild to think about how much more I've learned since then!
How have your CS students inspired you? What is your favorite CS project you have completed with your students?
CS students are creative and inquisitive. They're never afraid to ask "why" and I'm always willing to engage the class in a research tangent to learn something new. My favorite projects are the ones in which I give my students the freedom to explore something they're passionate about. My fifth graders have imagined conversations with their role models from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Wilma Rudolph. My sixth graders have built robots to care for injured animals. My upper schoolers have created virtual worlds, websites about their favorite movies, and analyzed data to determine algorithmic bias. They leave my classroom with so many more ways to use their voice.
How do you recruit students into your CS classes?
Each year, I ask my current CS students why someone should take computer science, what you do in computer science class, and who should take computer science. Then, I assemble their responses into a short spiel for each of the grades. Last year, it turned into a top ten list, and I have one of the biggest CS1 classes I've ever had!
CS EDUCATION COMMUNITY
How do you get other teachers, administrators, and community members excited about CS?
I try to grab their attention with hands on activities! Just like the students, I want them to dive right in. I've broken out the MakeyMakeys and interactive games like Google QuickDraw at faculty meetings and other school events. Once they're having fun, it's easy to explain the benefits and importance of CS for every student.
What excites you most about the current state of CS education in the US?
I'm really excited about the movement to bring computer science to every student in a way that is culturally sustaining. I think traditionally, it was easy to pretend that technical fields, like computer science, didn't have biases and each student would experience it the same way. However, as it becomes more obvious that your gender, race, and personal experiences affect your experience with technology, the more we need to plan for diverse experiences in our classrooms.
What do you enjoy most about participating in CS for All Teachers?
Community! Most computer science teachers have had the very lonely experience of being the only CS teacher in their school or district. To have a community, literally at your fingertips, that you can run ideas by, learn from their experiences, and share your successes with, is invaluable!
Besides the CS for All Teachers Community, what is your favorite CS tool or resource?
I discovered Replit, an online IDE, when looking for a better tool for coding collaboratively while remote, but it has changed my in-person teaching as well. Being able to view students coding live allows me to give them immediate feedback and just-in-time advice. Coding collaboratively allows for more interactive coding demonstrations and more successful pair programming. They are constantly releasing new features for educators including ready-to-go curriculum and activities that easily work with my existing plans.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to potential CS educators?
Have fun! Leave room for exploration and play in your lessons and let students choose project topics they're excited about.
TELL US MORE!
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
I'm proud of the computer science program I've built over the last six years at Ellis. When I accepted the job, there were two electives in the middle school and one in the high school. I've expanded the program to include computer science options for students in each of their eight years of middle and high school. The program has a cohesive arc that gives students the opportunity to use technology to solve problems and as a medium of expression.
What do you do to recharge after a long day (or week, month, year, etc.) of teaching?
Hikes with my dog, dancing around my kitchen, and endless chat sessions with my teacher friends keep me going.