Two years ago, the principal at Fountain Hills High School asked teachers if they were interested in teaching computer science.
With no background in computer science, Randy Bragg stepped up to the challenge.
“We would really be doing a disservice to the kids if we’re not preparing them for this,” he said. “So I said, ‘Yeah, this sounds like something I want to do.’”
He now teaches an Advanced Placement computer science principles class. He’s part of a growing number of Arizona teachers who are getting trained in computer science and are passing on what they learn to their students.
Last week, Bragg and more than 80 other teachers from across the state were at Grand Canyon University for a free, five-day workshop learning how to integrate computer science curriculum in their classrooms.
They learned how to implement no-cost, open source, standard aligned computer science curriculum put together by Code.org, a non-profit that promotes access to computer science education.
The workshop is part of a year-long program, which is put together by Grand Canyon University and Science Foundation Arizona. Teachers also attend day-long workshops throughout the school year. The program is meant to help address the state’s shortfall of skilled coding teachers.
Linda Coyle, director of education for the Science Foundation Arizona, noted there more than 10,000 computer science jobs left unfilled in Arizona. Meanwhile, she said only 546 students graduated last year from the state’s three public universities with computer science degrees.
“Obviously 546 is not going to fill 10,000 jobs,” Coyle said.
She said one way to solve that problem is to “start offering computer science courses to students in the lower grade levels.”
Cori Araza, director of STEM outreach and program development at Grand Canyon University, said the year-long program equipping teachers with computer science skills will hopefully help get more students interested in computer science jobs, which have starting salaries of about $46,000 in Arizona.
“GCU wants to be a part of making sure that we have the next generation of students ready to become computer scientists, and the best way to do that is to train teachers,” she said.