“Winning the CS Leaders Prize is exciting and is a great motivator for our district to work towards bettering our students and continuing to give them these new experiences,” says Bethany Foos, a Technology Integration Specialist with Genoa Area Local School District in Genoa, Ohio, who applied for and won the $10,000 CS Leaders Prize.
The CS Leaders Prize, a partnership between Code.org and DonorsChoose, awarded $1 million to U.S. schools to get more students access to computer science education. Winning schools committed to adding a new computer science course in the 2023-2024 school year. This year, only two Ohio schools won the prize. One of these, Genoa Area Local Schools, earned the prize for the district’s progress in bringing computer science to elementary students.
The Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN) seeks to create more opportunities for students to learn computer science. We spoke with Bethany Foos and Cody McPherson, Assistant Superintendent of Genoa Area Local Schools District. Bethany and Cody shared their school district’s plans for expanding computer science access and how they’ll use the $10,000 prize.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your computer science journey?
Bethany: The past few years I have been exploring coding and trying to integrate that into our district’s curriculum where we can fit it in. This past summer I actually attended the OSLN Computer Science K-5 Program, supported by Code.org. And that has sparked this drive to incorporate computer science in our district. We have definitely started with the very basics but attending that workshop and receiving the grant money has allowed us to reconnect with computer science and to try to figure out a flow of how that can be implemented into our district.
Cody: My name’s Cody McPherson. I am the Assistant Superintendent here at Genoa and curriculum is under my umbrella.
I met Bethany about five years ago and it was pretty evident that she just had a large vision of technology integration first in her classroom, and then for the district. Much of this was fostered by our previous Technology Integration Specialist, Christine Danhoff. In the beginning, it was evident that Bethany and I both held a dual goal for bringing about, not just computer science, but also STEM specifically into elementary.
At an administrative level, we needed to start with a group of students. We thought elementary was a great starting point to create foundational skills. In doing so, young students can learn, make large gains, and expect STEM as a skill moving forward. Throughout the years, we’ve leaned on Bethany’s knowledge of what that should look like at the elementary level. Now that she is in a new position this year, she’s been able to expand that vision throughout the entire district and continue the work that was set down from Christine. Editor’s note: Christine Danhoff is serving this year as a facilitator for OSLN’s computer science professional development.
Learn how to bring computer science to any classroom
The Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN) offers professional development to all Ohio teachers looking to bring the critical ideas of computer science and computational thinking to their students. Priority applications close May 1, 2023.
How OSLN training has impacted your practice?
Bethany: Before doing any training with OSLN, I just kind of got my feet wet very little with resources and social media. Our prior technology integration specialist, Christine Danhoff, helped guide me and having training provided by OSLN has also helped me gain resources. The experience connected me not only with physical resources to use with the kids in the classrooms, but with other motivated teachers and individuals who are willing to share their ideas and just their love for learning and continuing to grow not only with ourselves, but in our schools and our classrooms as well.
What does it mean for your school to receive this prize?
Cody: We are a small rural school district, finances are always an issue. Whenever and however we can find unique opportunities to bring about change that we think are academically important in a fiscally responsible manner, that is very much impactful for us and our community.
We’ve had some preemptive conversations with some encouraging options. One of the ideas that fuels the thought process is the fact that we have young elementary age students who for a few years now have been taught and acquired foundational skills in STEM and Computer Science. These students are beginning to transition to the middle school level and eventually they’re going to be moving to the high school level. So, we need to take a look at how we continue to provide for those students, working towards the district’s vision, which is having our students’ future ready for a career or college readiness path.
We have students that are now trained, and we need to continue to harness those skills in the same way that we teach our kids other subjects. We build foundational skills and then expand the knowledge. We must keep going and that’s how we believe we need to view computer science, as it is also vitally important.
For our kids in our elementary school, the jobs they will be acquiring in the future are jobs that don’t exist right now. And the jobs that currently exist are going to be, or are currently, being transformed to need computer science skills. So, we need to continue to harness those skills at all levels of education.
So we currently have some good ideas in the think tank and that is a positive. This money has allowed us to open up that door and say here are some options now that we can begin to take a look at.