Blog Post

Community Spotlight: Omar Shepherd

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Each month, we highlight a member of the CS for All Teachers community.

Omar Shepherd

Omar Shephard










Name: Omar Shepherd

Occupation: Curriculum Specialist, STEM/Career Education

Workplace: Orange County Department of Education

Years in education: 14

Years teaching computer science: 4



What interests you about CS?

Initially drawn in through Competitive Robotics, Computer Science isn't only fun, but it's a great way to help prepare students for career! In my Computer Science Supplementary Authorization Program through the University of California, Irvine UCI, I was introduced to the concept of Algorithmic Bias. The idea that Who Codes Matters! I'm interested in opportunities to create more access pathways for ALL students to have access to High Quality CS Education whether it be through participating in Competitive Robotics competitions, or engaging in the rich opportunities of Exploring Computer Science, Computer Science Principles, CS-A and beyond.

How did you start teaching CS? Do you have a background in CS?

It's funny, while I have my Career Technical Education (CTE) Credential in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and recently completed my Supplementary Authorization Credentialing Program through UCI, I still have a hard time seeing myself as a CS teacher. I guess I'm having a hard time shaking the "Imposter Syndrome" we often hear of educators new in a space. That said, my journey was through discovering the curriculum, going through a week long training, and implementing a CSP program at Silverado High School the following year.

Generally, I'd say I don't have a background in CS. It was sort of by happenstance that while serving as the Director for the California Math and Science Partnership (CaMSP) grant, I'd been working with teachers to develop Project Based Learning (PBL) units on math and science. We invested in some Lego Mindstorm EV3's as part of a lesson we'd been planning and I discovered the programming side of it and essentially, Loved It! I thought to myself, "Gee, that was fun! What an engaging way to teach math and science," later discovering the programming we'd been doing had connection to Computer Science.

I guess you can say the rest is sort of CS History.. LOL

How have your CS students inspired you? What is your favorite CS project you have completed with your students?

Great question. You know all of us as educators often wonder, "Am I making an impact?" No matter how hard we try, we wonder if what we're attempting is really helping our students. After completing a Star Wars activity and feeling a bit disappointed that the lesson didn't go as planned, one of my students began commenting on how fun it was, and another chimed in sharing that while it was difficult he'd enjoyed the challenge and before you knew it what I'd thought had been not a good lesson, was in fact students responding to rigor and challenge.

I think that's what I really like about CS: the way it helps students develop the muscle of iteration.

How do you recruit students into your CS classes?

Each year, outside of the classroom, we hold VEX robotics competitions. It's great fun, and through promotion of our Orange County Robotics Consortium, many students want to know, "How can I be a part of that?" Before you know it they're signed up!



How do you get other teachers, administrators, and community members excited about CS?

As a Curriculum Specialist in STEM and Career Education, I often get asks about CS implementation, and planning. We work to provide professional learning, access to curricular tools, and coaching support. At the heart of it is letting teachers know it's not just another thing, by letting administrators know how CS learning better prepares students for college and career. Interestingly, with the Local Control Funding model utilized in California, it's holding up computer science to community stakeholders and encouraging them to be sure STEM and computer science are included in their requests for local school funding, through the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).

What excites you most about the current state of CS education in the US?

I'm most excited about the state of CS as it's everywhere! From shows on television with characters participating in coding camps, robotics clubs and the like. Not to mention that state by state, we're making great progress in formal adoption of CS Standards.

What do you enjoy most about participating in CS for All Teachers?

Being a part of the CS for All Teachers community has been outstanding! The opportunity for support, to build your professional network, and to get ideas you can implement right away whether in lesson planning, or outreach to promote the CS for All Teachers community resources.

Besides the CS for All Teachers community of practice, what is your favorite CS tool or resource?

My favorite CS tool or resource has to be the padlet developed by Mark Lantsberger out of the San Diego County Office of Education. It's a treasure trove when it comes to a one stop shop for curriculum, lesson planning resources, and support for implementing CS.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to potential CS educators?

CS is not just another thing! In fact, CS is woven into every subject in a way that it can be naturally a apart of what you're already teaching. It's important to note that not all students will go on to become computer scientists, but students that have exposure to high quality CS instruction have the chance to develop the logic, and critical thinking skills to access and succeed in the jobs of the future.



What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Admittedly, completing the Computer Science Supplementary Authorization Credential program was an extreme challenge, and also the most professionally rewarding. Learning about conditionals to syntax based language such as Python stretched me and helped me to develop an appreciation of what is needed to make CS accessible to all learners.

Write a short poem describing what CS is like or what CS means to you:

Class Class This is not about the Pass, it's about the formula. Variables, Conditionals, Loops, don't forget the back splash, after all, it's all about what you do in the dash.

What do you do to recharge after a long day (or week, month, year, etc.) of teaching?

Not that I'm a fitness buff, but I firmly believe in the power of cardio as a great stress relieving strategy and stay in shape strategy too. Give me an hour on the elliptical and I'm a new man! Be sure to follow me on Twitter @DoctorSTEM



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Submitted by Rebekah Lang on Tue, 11/03/2020 - 19:05

Love your poem!