Announcing the 2021 NCWIT National AiC Educator Award Recipients
The National NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) Educator Award elevates one or more educators whose work exemplifies the best of the AiC Educator Award. The Award identifies outstanding formal and informal educators who play a pivotal role in encouraging 9th-12th grade students who self-identify as women, genderqueer, or non-binary to explore their interest in computing and technology. The award also recognizes these educators for their efforts to promote gender equity in computing.
In its fourth year running, NCWIT is pleased to announce the 2021 National NCWIT AiC Educator Award recipients: Angela DeHart, Melody Hagaman, and Philip Peavy. Read their full commendations below.
The National AiC Educator Award is sponsored by AT&T.
Angela DeHart leads the STEM Impressionists (SIP) program in Ashburn, Virginia. In this program, which she founded while working as a middle school teacher, participants create events and activities that allow them to form partnerships and reach out to younger students from underrepresented groups at the elementary and middle school levels. SIP projects have included hackathons, micro:bit workshops, and a cross-national collaboration with Code Tigers, a STEM organization located in New Delhi, India. DeHart says, “Most of my work as a facilitator comes from listening to kids talk, learning, and supporting them at the intersection of where they can/need to grow and [where] I have the experience [and] skills to help them. Any gaps are filled by partnering with others.”
One of the tenets that DeHart has woven into the foundations of the SIP program is, “When you teach, you learn material at a deeper level.” Another is that “diversity creates better, more inclusive decisions.” From putting student accomplishments on display to bringing students with her to co-present at national STEM events, DeHart strives to give her students opportunities to share their knowledge. She is also committed to ensuring that students of color have greater access to diverse technical role models. “When I go to STEM events,” she says, “I am the ‘only one’ or one of very few people of color in the room. We need to change that reality. It matters to the millions of Black and Brown students that are in school and love to nerd out on STEM. They need to see more examples of how they, too, can be a STEM expert, can enter the field of computer science, and not be alone.”
Melody Hagaman teaches computer science for grades nine through twelve at Centennial High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When she started the computer science program at her school, it consisted of a single, advanced class with content dictated by the state. However, many of her students struggled with jumping into a dual-credit course as their first taste of computer science, due to learning disabilities, language barriers, or other obstacles. This motivated her to negotiate for the opportunity to create an introductory course that would be accessible to more students with diverse backgrounds, support needs, and experience levels. In the nine years since then, the program has developed into a full five-course computer science pathway.
Hagaman developed creative recruitment and outreach events, such as interactive presentations in freshman classes, to educate students from underrepresented groups about opportunities in coding. After attending the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, Hagaman was inspired to develop an eTextiles course to recruit a broader range of students, even traveling to Austria to receive training. “Every aspect of eTextiles,” she observes, “teaches computer science through the lens of fashion design as an alternative to the traditional game or app-based curricula generally utilized by introductory-level programming courses. eTextiles has dramatically shifted demographics in my program, with more girls, students who are BIPOC, and students with special needs going on to continue studying computer science in my school and in college.” For the past ten years, Hagaman has facilitated equity-based, cross-curricular professional development for computing educators at the national level through Project GUTS and Tapestry.
Philip Peavy is a computer science teacher at Paul Duke STEM High School in Norcross, Georgia, where he specializes in teaching cybersecurity and game design. A strong advocate of making STEM and computer science opportunities available to all students, he expanded his school’s CyberPatriot club from having one female member to having two all-female competitive teams. Realizing that high school cybersecurity programs are often restricted to top-achieving students (when they are available at all), Peavy developed a cybersecurity curriculum that is designed to be accessible for all students. He uses a culturally responsive, project-based learning approach in his classes, in which students work on real problems that they want to fix in their community, and then present their findings. This helps students enjoy the process and want to keep learning, because, as Peavy says, “it applies to their lives.”
Peavy is also helping to expand access to computing programs for all learners by offering professional development for other teachers. He started a computer science certification preparation program in his district, which has helped more than 20 educators become computer science certified. He also creates resources for teaching game design content and supports other teachers in helping their students become certified game developers. He has presented at several national conferences on how to create a cybersecurity pathway in any school or district. “The biggest thing I have learned,” he says, “is to build relationships with the students and show students they can be successful.”