Links to the posts in this series
If you're reading this before the previous post, I'd recommend going back and reading that one first.
I think I've carved out a somewhat unique career. Never set out to be a teacher and a couple of different turns here or there and things could have been very different. When I started teaching, I thought I'd probably, if anything become a math chair and that was actually the plan at Stuy until Richie Rothenberg, the math chair at the time unexpectedly passed away in the late nineties.
Pre Hunter recap
Just a quick recap. I started my career as a Programmer Analyst at Goldman Sachs back in the day. I'd say Software Engineer but that title didn't exist back then. From there I went into teaching for two decades, mostly at Stuyvesant.
At Stuyvesant I built the CS program, created classes, trained teachers and shepherded hundreds, perhaps thousands of students towards tech careers. My continued relationships with these former students left me in a unique position as someone with strong CS chops, strong teaching and education chops along with professional programming experience and strong ties to the tech industry.
During this time, I played my part in getting the ball rolling for K12 CS Ed. Certainly at Stuy but I'd like to think beyond it as well.
The Hunter chapter
Almost seven years ago, I came over to Hunter to work on two major projects. One was to develop and run an undergraduate honors computer science program at the college and the other as to create and run computer science teacher certification programs.
Undergraduate CS Honors
Prior to my joining Hunter, they already had a long established CS department and program. It was (and is) both as good as any other program out there and as bad. There were though, a few particular issues. First, Hunter's program was either unknown to high school students or had a poor reputation due to the misconception that a liberal arts school can't do good CS and, at the tech company end, Hunter was a total unknown.
Hunter's program was a typical college CS program in that it did a great job preparing strong applicants for grad school but did nothing to prepare them for tech careers and there was no connection with the NY Tech industry.
When I started, top tech companies never recruited at Hunter and most Hunter students never even applied for internships prior to graduating - they didn't know they were supposed to.
Over the past 7 years there have been tremendous changes.
My first cohort had 8 students. My latest has 64. My honors program and Hunter CS in general is now a known CS destination in many NY high schools. Applications have grown from around 50 to many hundreds and each year I field more and more calls of students trying to decide between my program and other top CS programs - I win some, I lose some.
On the exit side, my Daedalus students regularly end up at top tech companies and the overall profile of Hunter CS is much greater and more positive in the tech world.
I've created new classes that integrate software engineering practices with traditional CS and built many unique partnerships and programs over the past 7 years.
My trouble is that the Daedalus program is in full swing. It has to be maintained but the job is basically done. At the same time, I don't have the ability to get the reforms I've brought to my program to the greater Hunter CS population. Sure, I've gotten some initiatives started that are available to all Hunter students but a lot of the core stuff that I've worked into my courses are only available to the Daedalus students and I don't have a way of changing that.
So, I think I've done what I can do. The original goal was to create this honors program and I think we've gone well beyond. Hunter, and Daedalus in particular, has a higher profile with high schools and employers and Daedalus students get the best of CS, the practical software engineering skills they'll need and unique partnerships with the tech community.
My other major hat was on the K12 CS teacher side. First we had to lobby the state to create the certification. I visited Albany a number of times and spoke to my share of Regents but the real heavy lifting went to Hunter's President and the Dean of the Ed school.
Meanwhile, I created our masters and certificate programs while doing my part in the whole K12 CS effort. I created new classes and worked with some of my old teaching pals from Stuy to get ready to run the program once the state approved everything.
Three years ago everything got really rolling. Hunter had the first active certificate and masters programs in the state. Thanks to the generous support of Gotham Gives, we were able to start a cohort of 21 working teachers towards CS certification. They were joined by 2 masters students.
A year later, New York State had its first certified CS teachers.
The following year, again with support from Gotham Gives, this time joined by Google, we started another 24 working teachers along with 5 more masters students.
Now in our third cohort we've got another 56 working through the programs.
By the time our third year ends, we'll have around 100 certified CS teachers in New York City.
I'm equally proud of the fact that we've got five teachers from the Fingerlakes region in our program.
I've been pretty vocal over the years as to what I think a good CS teacher looks like and I'm super proud that our brand of CS teaching can now be found across the city and in fact across the state.
If you think about the number of students these teachers reach each year, that's pretty amazing.
I'm equally proud of the fact that these cohorts are still in touch and forming a new community of CS teachers in the city and state.
Now that we're rolling, what's next? The program needs to continue to run but I don't see major changes. There are more things to get done at Hunter and in the state. Things like getting the state to separate HS from early grades in terms of certification and integrating some CS teacher prep in our elementary school programs but, right now, I don't see a path for the former and don't have the energy for the latter.
I've also done a number of other one offs or side projects while at Hunter. Some of them have been:
- I was on the executive committe and a lead author in creating the NY State K12 CS standards. Something I find ironic since I'm not a fan of "state standards."
- I mentioned earlier that I was a big part of Hunter winning and administering the CUNY2X grant. Got to work with some great people and that whole grant was huge in helping move the needle on Hunter CS.
- I was also fortunate enough to work on a project funded by the Robin Hood foundation on CS in the primary grades. It also allowed me to work with some great people while dipping my toes in CS Ed research and early grade work.
- Prior to Covid we were also well on our way in developing a nice little K12 CS teacher community hosting monthxly meetups at tech companies like Google and Digital Ocean.
So, there it is, the major initiatives I've been working on at Hunter and what I think I've accomplished. I'm proud of the work and in all cases I think we went farther than we originally set out for.
What's next? I'm not entirely sure. I'll share some thoughts in my next post. I hope all my friends read it and keep an ear open if the right opportunity presents itself.