Maybe you have seen Christopher Kerr in our meetings?  Did you know that he was recognized this past summer as the CT NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Educator Awardee? 
 
To learn more about him, the award, and how you can get involved, please read on.
 
Remember, as always, if you like this article, please share on social media! 

Congratulations, Christopher Kerr!

Congratulations are in order.  Our Secretary, Christopher Kerr, was honored in August 2020 to receive the Connecticut NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Educator Award.  

Before changing careers to become a Computer Science teacher, Christopher spent more than 15 years in the Information Technology and Computer Science industry doing everything from fixing computers, graphic design, and software development.  He is now in his 7th year in the secondary level classroom and brings his knowledge and experience to bear in creating exciting experiences for his students. His professional goal is to help his students find where in the wide world of technology they belong. His personal goal is to create mindful young adults who will choose love over hate and happiness above all else. 

Christopher believes the key to receiving the state level recognition was his mentoring program.  This is a program he has created that has led to tremendous change in the number of females who have considered taking computer science in his public high school.  He identifies students who have completed his courses to return to his classroom as leaders and encourages them to become mentors to their peers.  He treats these mentors as equals, partnering with them in lesson development, and also ensuring that they get independent study credit for their efforts.  To learn more about this unique program, he has kindly provided materials HERE.  Of particular interest are the "Stage" documents which were created to help an organization build their own Student Teacher Assistant Program.

It turns out that many of the mentors were female and, in his words, “like attracts like”.  Females seeing other females in this leadership role has made a tremendous impact on who signs up for his courses.  There have been some side benefits as well.  Christopher has data that proves learning for all students has improved since this program’s implementation.  Students, it turns out, are much more willing to ask questions to their peer mentors than their teachers.  Christopher attributes this improvement to the climate created by mentors being in the room while teams are coding together.  

Christopher highly recommends that teachers nominate students for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing and that teachers consider applying for the Educator Award.  He recommends this award because of the role it has played in helping him to grow professionally and personally.  Christopher acknowledges that he is a “white male trying to be more than his demographic”.  The award has helped him feel vindicated in his ability to teach computer science and acknowledges that there is a problem in the current demographic of problem solvers.  He likes that he is “on record” being a part of the solution by recruiting females to take his course that might not ordinarily do so.  

Christopher has spent a lot of time thinking about systematic change as a teacher and a member of the CT CSTA Executive Board.  He often reflects about how we can move computer science forward in our state.  Christopher sees a smooth implementation in Computer Science revolving around the abstraction of creation & design of CS courses and curriculum to a higher level so teachers and administrators do not have to reinvent the wheel. He acknowledges that funding is an issue for many teachers and districts.  He believes we need better ways for professionals to find pathways to the field of education.  He favors recruiting private companies or individuals to sponsor districts committed to computer science.  Similar to the “sponsor-a-highway” model, he likes the idea of residents in our state moving money to support computer science in our state.  Indeed, our education systems are highways to students’ future.  He suggests that collective funding for computer science may be the step needed to move more districts forward.  

To nominate your student for the Aspirations Award, navigate here: https://www.aspirations.org/recognitions/AiCAward.