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Open letter: Why Amanda Gillespie says “I love teaching Computer Science”

Gillespie and class

Priority applications close April 30th for the Ohio’s next cohort of educators trained to teach Computer Science Discoveries and Computer Science Principles from Code.org. This program, delivered through the Ohio STEM Learning Network, is an intensive, year-long learning experience for middle and high school educators.

Amanda Gillespie wrote to us about how she worked to “carve out a place for computer science.” Learn what drove her and how she got started. Details on scholarships and the application are here.

 

To Whom it May Concern;

My journey into computer science began in the fall of 2013 with an email from Code.org announcing this new platform for computer science. At the time we were planning our STEAMM school, and I had no doubt that computer science needed to be a part of our school.

amanda gillespie headshotBy the next school year, we participated in the first ever Hour of Code. I entered pilot training with PLTW for Introduction to Computer Science thanks to grant funding from Verizon. That spring I ran our first ever computer science curriculum as a section of engineering class! In our initial pilot, we were building apps using MIT App Inventor.  Most of my training between 2015-2017 was self-taught, but I was determined to one day create a stand-alone computer science class at STEAMM. My colleague and I also started an event called CS Code Girls, held every December, geared towards exposing middle school girls in our area to computer science.

In 2018, I entered the CS Discoveries cohort and was ecstatic to find others in similar positions such as mine, trying to carve out a place for CS in middle school. With the support of the CS Discoveries training and cohort, I was able to launch CS Discoveries at STEAMM in the spring of 2019. In 2020, I went back to Code.org for CS Principles training. This training is the precursor to the next phase of my CS plan: to offer advanced CS in 8th grade as a high school credit and as a College Credit Plus course. Finally, my school will be adding grades 4 and 5 next year. As a result, I signed up for CS Fundamentals training, too! We will also be part of a pilot this fall for Amazon Future Engineers. This additional training will allow me to support teachers as we vertically align our growing CS pathway.

Code.org teacher supports are the absolute best of any CS training and supports I’ve experienced. Technical support is swift and courteous. The added supports for virtual instruction, synchronous and asynchronous, are a dream come true! Code.org is user friendly, Google Classroom compatible, and the lesson plans are amazing! The connections to standards are on point, the presentations are already done, and oh-my-goodness the lesson plans even have hyperlinks to turn documents into google docs!

I love teaching CS because I get to see kids blossom as they discover something new! Some of my favorites are the ones who might not do so well in other classes, but WOW do they love to code! I consider myself absolutely blessed when I have a class that says, “Wait, don’t help us. We want to figure it out!” My students love seeing themselves reflected in the videos throughout Code.org as well. The curriculum empowers them to be creative and bring their own flair to their projects.

Above all else, I can say without reservation that my training with Code.org has been priceless! I have made so many meaningful connections with fellow teachers, and learned so much from them, that I am certain I would not have made it this far without their support. Having a cohort of friends all living in the CS world is empowering! The cohort allowed me to grow as a professional and to embrace the lead learner role.

Should you have any questions as you begin your journey into computer science, I welcome the opportunity to connect with you. I may not have all the answers, but as a lead learner I will help you find your solutions.

Sincerely,

Amanda Gillespie

Code.Org, PLTW, MCTE & STEM Educator

Lead Teacher

Technology Facilitator

 

STEAMM Academy @ Hartford Middle School

1824 3rd St. SE

Canton, OH 44707

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