TeacherCon Science Training for Area Educators

Last week, 200 teachers from all over the state of Michigan ventured to Grand Rapids for the first ever, Michigan-hosted Teacher Con for Code.org’s professional development program. The five-day training was for teachers planning to implement either Computer Science Discoveries for 6-10th grade or AP Computer Science Principles at the high school level. Allegan Area Educational Service Agency was proud to have two teacher participants at the Grand Rapids TeacherCon and one more attending an out-of-state TeacherCon because the Michigan Conference was full with a waiting list. The teachers are Alexis Weibel, an 8th grade science teacher from Hopkins Middle School, Aaron Wissner, a computer science teacher at both Wayland Middle and High Schools, and Mark Mattox, science teacher from Allegan Alternative High School.

Allegan Area ESA’s role with this program was to create awareness about the lack of computer science opportunities in our schools across the entire state of Michigan as well as the statistics about Computer Science job growth and career pathways. A more detailed look at the Computer Science statistics in Michigan are very telling. Allegan Area ESA’s Science Consultant, Amy Oliver, began promoting and recruiting teachers for the professional development opportunity last fall when news was received that the Michigan Mathematics and Science Centers Network had been awarded a MiSTEM Education Grant through the Michigan Department of Education. Her efforts paid off because Allegan County now has three representatives from across the service area that will be bringing one of the two computer science courses to students this year. Additionally, Allegan Area ESA will be hosting six Saturday follow-up sessions for teachers representing southwest Michigan. The follow-up sessions are critical for continued support and professional learning for the teachers as they implement the program. Ms. Oliver hopes to encourage other teachers from Allegan County to participate next year.

Large group of teachers at training session

Aaron Wissner, pictured here in a group photo from GRTeacherCon, had this to say about his experience at the conference. "Bringing coding into schools is an excellent, high interest way to improve student problem solving, logical thinking, writing, and collaboration skills. My number one take away from the training is that the this AP course is unlike any other. There are no prerequisites, no homework, and no prior knowledge required. The goal is to provide all high school students with an entry level course into the world of computer science. Code.org is especially interested in seeing high participation rates from females and minority students, since the computer science field is currently seriously lacking in both these demographics."

Group of 7 teachers posing together

Alexis Weibel, pictured here on the far left with her team of teachers shared, "I had an amazing time at the training. I loved getting to know so many educators from all over the state and I'm very excited to bring this curriculum to Hopkins Middle School! I am SO glad I did it."