The 2017 WeTeach_CS Summit sought to educate, empower, and inspire Texas CS teachers through numerous breakout sessions featuring hands-on activities, speakers sharing the importance of CS education to the futures of their students and the nation, and even a CS playground to show what students are capable of when given the opportunity and access to CS courses. Along with this three-part mission, the WeTeach_CS Summit had yet another purpose.
An important part of building the community of CS educators in Texas is to recognize those teachers whose dedication and vision cause them to stand out, even in a crowd full of exceptional educators. The WeTeach_CS Change Maker and Mini-Grant awards seek not only to reward hard work, but to inspire other teachers with their success stories. Several of this year’s awardees credit attending the 2016 WeTeach_CS Summit with giving them the motivation to become a change maker in their school or with sparking the thought that led to submitting a successful mini-grant proposal. Therefore, WeTeach_CS hopes that what strikes attendees about the 2017 Change Maker and Mini-Grant awardees is what they have in common with these eight teachers and that next year, it could be them on stage.
Big thanks to our sponsors!
The 2017 WeTeach_CS Change Maker Awards and WeTeach_CS Mini-Grants are made possible through the generosity of IBM and Oracle Academy. With another big thank you to Denise Hobbs (Regional Director, North America, Oracle Academy) and Dennis Bly (Watson Academic Engagement and EdTech, IBM Digital Business Group) for joining to us to present these awards and congratulate our awardees.
2017 WeTeach_CS Change Maker Awards
The WeTeach_CS Change Maker Award is presented to computer science teachers who have made a significant impact on their students or the community through CS instruction. Each of the award recipients will receive a $750 honorarium.
- Computer Science Teacher
- Brenham High School, Brenham ISD
- ESC Region 6 WeTeach_CS Collaborative
Trenton Hall of Brenham ISD was so inspired by a Code.org promotional video that he talked his administration into letting him start the first computer science class at Brenham High School in 2013. Starting with 10 students, his classes now hold more than 60. Shortly after he started his CS program, Trenton’s students became involved in the 3D printing of prosthetics and since then his students have produced several prosthetics for members of the community and even some sent across the country. From there students have expanded to working on leg braces and even converting mechanical prosthetics to myo-electric prosthetics. Of his accomplishments, Joseph Chandler, Principal, Brenham High School, remarked “Mr. Hall has created a classroom that makes a huge impact on the community for our Brenham High School students.” It’s this community impact and not just a desire to learn CS skills that now drives students to sign up for CS classes at Brenham High School. And if this wasn’t enough, he’s currently working with the district to develop a plan to incorporate computer science/computational thinking throughout the year for grades K-8. Of his award, Trenton gives all credit to his students, “It’s really a reflection of the great things my students have accomplished. Being recognized for what my students are doing will inspire more students to become interested in Computer Science at Brenham High School.”
- Science and Robotics Teacher
- Pecos High School, Pecos Barstow Toyah ISD
- ESC Region 18 WeTeach_CS Collaborative
After attending the 2016 WeTeach_CS Summit, Jerald Jolito, a Science and Robotics Teacher from Pecos High School in Pecos Barstow Toyah ISD, was inspired to start a robotics club and develop programs to give their students the kind of education that is relevant for the 21st century job market. Initially they raised enough funds to purchase a 3D printer, but that just the beginning for Jolito’s vision. Since then, he and his students have received a $50,000 grant from Chevron to further develop the high school robotics club he’s currently working with Baylor College of Medicine and BHP Billiton on plans to expand similar programs to his district’s elementary and middle schools as well. “What sets Mr. Jolito apart from the others is his dedication and sacrifice to making sure these students see what they need to see not only in potential within themselves, but the potential they have when they work together as a team. He has an unrelenting need to ensure success for his students as individuals and as a group,“ said Jesse Zuniga, Director of Technology, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, of Jerald’s commitment. This is probably why over the past year, when not working to expand STEAM and CS education throughout his district, Jerald Jolito still found time to coach his robotics team to the Vex World 2017 Competition in Louisville, Kentucky this past April where they competed against more than 500 of the best Vex teams from all over the world including Korea, China, Japan, the UK, Mexico, and Canada. When asked to comment on his award, Jerald chose to look to the future. “This year’s Summit has given me a fresh perspective on STEAM education and made me realize that I need to find a way to utilize the technology that we have in our school to enhance and update my teaching strategies as well as help other teachers do the same. Last year was exciting for me, but with the additional input that I received from this year’s summit, next year is bound to be even better!”
- Mathematics & Computer Science Teacher
- Iraan High School, Iraan-Sheffield ISD
- ESC Region 18 WeTeach_CS Collaborative
Computer Science courses were not offered at Iraan High School, until Nikki Parker took the initiative to become computer science certified. Recognizing this effort, Karen Allen, Academic Coordinator, Iraan High School, states that, “through Nikki’s persistence, Iraan students now have the opportunity to challenge themselves through the increased computational thinking and collaboration skills that computer science courses provide.” This is because Nikki now teachers both Computer Science I and AP computer science principlas. She took on this challenge, because she truly believes that computer science is an area all students should be exposed to, even if they do not pursue it as a career, becasue the computational thinking and collaboration skills students learn help better prepare students for the real-world. Along with working to further expand CS offerings in her school, Nikki has also started a UIL computer science team. In their first year, they placed 2nd at district as a team, while two students placed in the top 4 at district in individual competition, with one student proceeding to place in the top 20 at regionals. When asked if her WeTeach_CS Change Maker award will affect her work, Nikki responded that it definitely increases her commitment, because as she says, “this award provided confirmation that my focus and intentions to meet the needs of all of my students has not gone unnoticed and will help me jumpstart some great ideas and programs that I want to bring to my rural area, and excite students to learn more about computer science.”
Mucahit Ismael Turel
- AP CS Principles Teacher / Director of Academics
- Harmony Science Academy-El Paso, Harmony Public Schools
Mucahit founded the CS program at Harmony Science Academy-El Paso and teaches AP CS Principles along with his duties as Academic Director for the school. He is s teacher who takes a personal interest in the success of his students, such as former student and 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army, Israel Castro who credits Mucahit with his success. “I can honestly say that if Mr Turel had not come to my high school I would never have had the academic vigor or depth to get through the United States Military Academy at West Point.” This approach and dedication to his students has helped many new to CS, take and pass the AP CSP exam and even go on to pursue CS or other STEM-related degrees after graduation. About being named a WeTeach_CS Change Maker, Turel said, “I am happy, honored and humbled to accept the CS Change Maker Award. I am happy because the award not only gave me the motivation to do better in the classroom but also encouraged me to empower other educators to promote CS education. I’m honored to connect such a remarkable and distinguished organization, WeTeach_CS, with this award. I’m humbled because there are simply so many excellent, inspiring, productive educators in Texas who challenge, motivate, and encourage their students every day.”
2017 WeTeach_CS Mini-Grant Awards
The WeTeachCS Mini-Grant Award is given to teachers to support the purchase of instructional resources and materials for K-12 computer science and related programs. Funding can be used for after-school activities, in-school programs, or summer camps. Each teacher receiving a WeTeachCS Mini Grant submitted a detailed proposal stating what funds would be used for and stating their goals for each program. Today these grants of up to $1,500 will be awarded to support activities to be completed within the next school year.
- Math, Robotics, & Computer Science Teacher
- Ozona High School, Crockett County CCSD
- ESC Region 18 WeTeach_CS Collaborative
Ozona Elementary School Algorithms & Problem Solving Club
Jason Davis, a Math, Robotics, & Computer Science Teacher at Ozona High School, wants to extend computational thinking and problem solving to the elementary level and increase future interest in computer science by exposing younger students to coding. To accomplish this, he’s receiving funding to start the Ozona Elementary School Algorithms & Problem Solving Club. The program, aimed at 3rd through 5th graders, will build students problem solving abilities through use of the Beast Academy curriculum, while introducing them to Scratch as a practical outlet for their new skills. The club will also create an opportunity for high school CS students to act as mentors to the younger students.
- Information Technology Teacher
- Granbury High School, Granbury ISD
Finches for 500
Angela Jumper of Granbury ISD, responding to the need to expand the number of students taking computer science courses, has devised a cost-effective program to reach students at all grade levels and all skill levels. By taking advantage of the Finch robot’s ability to be programmed using a variety of languages, her initiative will be able to leverage one set of robots to reach students in elementary, middle, and high school. Students new to coding will be able to use languages such as Snap and Scratch to build skills and interest, while eventually working their way up to controlling the Finch robots using Java as advanced students. When asked about her award Angela replied, “At last year’s Summit I was introduced to the Finch robot and that was the birth of the project Finches for 500. I was so excited to see the growth in the summit this year and honored to accept the grant to get programming and robotics to our community.”
- Teacher Librarian
- Ruth Barron Elementary School, Pflugerville ISD
Diane Sikkenga, a Teacher Librarian at Ruth Barron Elementary School in Pflugerville ISD, proposed an 11 week after school program, called Club Code-A-Bots. which will allow students to explore coding and computer science through hands-on activities with various robots using Code.Org curriculum. The Code-A-Bots Club will offer students an opportunity to explore logical thinking and coding in a fun atmosphere. And the hands-on activities will be beneficial for students who cannot read yet and/or have limited English skills in Diane’s school where 67% of students have limited English proficiency. Commenting on her award and attending this year’s WeTeach_CS Summit Diane said, “I am really excited about working with my younger kids on CS concepts, coding, and robots! I think the students are really going to enjoy it! My first session at the Summit this year even showed me how I could continue using the Ozobots with 2nd-5th grade and I hope to expand the Code-a-Bots program to 2nd-3rd grade and then 4th-5th grade.”
- CTE Teacher
- NYOS Charter School, Austin, TX
Vertical Integration of Digital Horticulture
Victor Villavicencio, a CTE Teacher at NYOS Charter School in Austin, is receiving support for a rather ambitious hardware and software development project for his high school CS students. Villavicencio’s plan, which he calls “Vertical Integration of Digital Horticulture” involves combining Raspberry Pi computers integrated with LED lighting controls and other sensors, which will be controlled via Amazon ALEXA and monitored on Android tablets. Students will integrate the hardware and write necessary software to create the system. Middle school students will then use this system to conduct and monitor various seedling experiments that they will report on at the school’s science fair. When asked how it felt to receive his first WeTeach_CS Mini-Grant award, Victor responded, “I am grateful that my idea of letting high school create a physical computing project which is then transferred to a middle school class to collect and analyze data was funded. In other words, I am ready for the challenge to create a cross discipline (CS and Biology) vertically aligned (HS to MS) lesson plans.