One of the highlights of this week has been finally getting together with a large number of the teachers in my certification program. Another was finally being able to once again attend a CSTA-NY meeting as they've almost always conflicted with my teaching schedule over the past couple of years.
The reason I scheduled my meetup back to back with the CSTA-NY meetup was because of another highlight. Five of my Advanced Certificate teachers are from the Dryden and Groton school districts, a little east and northeast of Cayuga lake near Ithaca. The three Dryden teachers were able to come for a visit so I scheduled my meetup so that the Dryden folk could attend both and meet a whole bunch of new CS teachers.
How this all happened should be a model for other districts across the state.
A couple of years ago I got a cold email from someone in the Dryden school district. They were asking about my advanced certificate program. Having seen that New York state recently published its Computer Science standards and had recently created a certification, they knew that they would need to deal with the subject area in some way or shape. They knew that finding a new computer science teacher would be very difficult as none of the colleges offering teacher certification programs in the area offered CS Ed. They also knew that even if they found a new teacher and were able to hire them, that would be one lone teacher and a new one at that being solely responsible for the districts direction in computer science.
The could also do what many others have done - send a couple of teachers for short form code.org or similar training. Well, you all know my feelings on that.
So, what did they decide to do?
They saw that I offered an advanced cert program - a way to recertify some of their current teachers. They were working on a writing an NFS grant proposal to support CS education and were thinking about including a funding request to send some of their teachers to such a program.
It would have to be my program since it was and still is the only such program running in the state. We spoke, they liked what I was selling program wise and so worked to include it in their grant. I tried to lend whatever support I could.
In the mean time, I also had to make sure my program remained remote accessible - something I was already fighting for since it can be very difficult for a working teacher, particularly one in a transportation desert to get to Hunter after a long day. I felt we had a responsibility to those local but distant teachers as well as the rest of the teachers across the state. My administration agreed and we remained remote.
So, by Spring 2022, Dryden, who had teamed up with neighboring Groton were awarded the grant and we got five teachers into my cert program. All five have been great and it's been really healthy to add a handful of non NYC teachers to our already solid mix of current K12 teachers and aspiring masters students.
This past fall, Devorah and I drove up to their region for a small Fall vacation and while there I was able to visit the Dryden High School and spend time with both the teachers and the administration. As part of their grant, the three Dryden teachers were able to come down to the city. The two Groton teachers couldn't attend due to scheduling conflicts. The three came down on Wednesday and were able to attend our meetup and connect with other CS teachers. Thursday, I partnered each with a local CS teacher who was doing something similar. One of the Dryden teachers was interested in tech/robotics to go with the CS, another also an art teacher and the third a generalist.
This was followed by the CSTA-NY meetup which inspired them to see about either getting involved in their closest CSTA chapter or if not, forming a new one. This was cool to hear.
Now, this morning, they'll be visiting my old haunts at Stuyvesant to observe a couple more classes and meet a few more teachers before trying to beat the holiday traffic on their way back north.
Moving forward, Dryden and Groton now have a combined 5 qualified, certified CS teachers and can now design programs and opportunities that best suit their student's needs as opposed to just copying the curriculum du jour. I'd be delighted if they include me in that process but if they do or don't, Dryden and Groton are in great shape for CS education moving forward.
Other districts should follow their lead.