Grant allows teachers to further education with computer science certification

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Laurel Ridge Community College

~ Press release issued by Laurel Ridge Community College

Laurel Ridge Community College is a partner in a Virginia Department of Education Advancing Computer Science Education Grant (ACSE) that will enable a group of Shenandoah Valley school teachers to earn an endorsement to teach computer science classes at no cost to them.

For the second time, the college is a post-secondary education partner in SPARCS:  Sustainable Partnerships for Advancing Rural Computer Science education in the Shenandoah Valley. The regional partnership includes seven public school divisions — Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, Warren, and Winchester, along with Mountain Vista Governor’s School (MVGS). In addition to the grant this year, the partnership was also awarded the grant in 2019.

Up to 20 teachers will be able to take courses — with the cost covered by the grant — at Laurel Ridge to earn a career studies certificate in computer science generalist. Once the teachers have completed the certificate, they will qualify for the Virginia Department of Education’s add-on endorsement in computer science.

The 18-credit certificate for the grant includes CSC221 – Introduction to Problem Solving & Programming (Python), CSC222 – Object-Oriented Programming (Java), CSC223- Data Structures and Analysis of Algorithms (C++), CSC208 – Discrete Structures (Discrete Math & Python) and four-credits’ worth of seminars and projects.

A cohort of teachers selected to participate in the program will begin taking classes in late spring, said Dean of Early College and High School Partnerships Missy Spielman.

“This grant will allow area teachers to become our students, enhancing their computer science knowledge and allowing them to earn an additional VDOE licensure endorsement — minus the financial burden,” she said. “These teachers then have the opportunity to inspire their classroom students to recognize the applications of computer science, and to consider and prepare for careers in the field.”

Not only do the teachers in the cohort receive support in Laurel Ridge’s classrooms, they also get support in their own classrooms, according to Computer Science Professor Melissa Stange.

“I visit their classrooms with some of our computer science equipment to demonstrate to students how computer science concepts are applied in different areas, such as problem solving, robotics, electronics and security,” said Dr. Stange. “Teachers who have completed the grant program are able to borrow some of Laurel Ridge’s equipment to use in their classrooms. Additionally, the college invites these teachers’ students to campus to participate in computer science webinars, camps and other activities.”

A cohort of earlier teachers, including Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School technology education teacher Dave Curry, and Daniel Morgan Intermediate School math and science teacher Dr. Matthew Reames, has taken the benefits of the grant back to their classrooms.

“Completing the computer science certificate program at Laurel Ridge Community College gave me a solid foundation to teach my students about programming in Java, C++, and Python, as well as other pertinent computer science concepts,” said Curry.

Dr. Reames added, “The Computer Science courses at Laurel Ridge helped give me the background and language to talk with my students about the applications of coding and computer science in their futures.”

For more information about Laurel Ridge Community College, visit their WEBSITE.

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