Siena is continuing to lead the way in computer science teacher education.

The College welcomed partner teachers to campus the week of August 21 as part of its ongoing partnership to “teach the teachers” about course content and pedagogy for computer science instruction.

Computer science professors Jim Matthews, M.S. and Robin Flatland, Ph.D. co-lead the ongoing partnership with more than 40 Capital Region schools. New York issued statewide learning standards in 2020 requiring schools to offer computer science instruction in their districts, but getting all teachers up to speed and course content available is crucial in making that a reality. 

Siena is the only college in the area offering this kind of outreach to local districts to implement this requirement. Siena initiated this partnership more than 10 years ago, and the reach has grown exponentially over that time. 

“This program is designed to actively address a national shortage of computer science teachers,” explained Flatland. “Another important aspect of our work is increasing the number of students in computer science classrooms from underrepresented groups. That effort has been led by Professors Jesse Moya, Pauline White, and MaryAnne Egan.”

Flatland noted that the program has been supported over the past decade by three separate National Science Foundation grants totaling more than two million dollars. 

“Fewer than five percent of students in New York graduate high school having taken a computer science class,” said Matthews. “Our team's work is about creating ongoing partnerships with teachers and their high schools to offer a much-needed professional development opportunity.”

Teachers who have taken part in the program can now offer their students an Introduction to Computer Science course for college credit, as well as Discovering Computer Science, which was developed by Pauline White, M.S., teaching instructor of computer science. The courses are designed to meet the state education requirements.

Siena alumni who are now teaching returned to their alma mater to take part in the workshops.

“The professional development provided to teachers through the computer science department at Siena not only provides great resources and curriculum for teachers to use in their classrooms, but also a community of teachers who want to support each other in their endeavors,” said Elizabeth Pegarella ’21, who teaches math and computer science at Chatham High School. “This community is something that you really don't get at other development sessions. I would encourage any teacher, regardless of their current content area, to reach out if they are interested in pursuing a new path in their professional lives. Computer science is everywhere and there is a place for everyone.”

Jessica Hladik ’98, who teaches at Columbia High School in East Greenbush, praised Matthews, Flatland and their colleagues for developing these partnerships.

“Ten years ago, there was one computer science class taught at one local high school and now it has grown to over 40 schools in New York,” she said. “The amount of work they put into this effort has been herculean, including creating the tremendous resources they provide for the different courses offered.  It has not only allowed thousands of students access to computer science classes in high school, which they previously would not have had, but they have created a network of teachers from the area that has provided support, resources and a sounding board for its members. This group of teachers has been an invaluable resource for me and my students.”

WAMC and CBS6 came to campus to cover the workshops.