I’ve been working with the Microsoft TEALS program for over a year now. In that time, I have seen Lee County High School, which is located in the Appalachian foothills in Beattyville, Ky, step up and snag this opportunity to have Introduction to Computer Science offered in their school. The Administration, Staff and Faculty have been resilient, responsive, and committed to making this initiative a success. The first steps have been taken–they won the bid to have this offering as a remote distance learning pilot taught by an Industry Professional from Microsoft Corporation back in Seattle to their students in Beattyville, Ky for this school year, which is underway currently. This simple step opened up a world of opportunities for students, the school and for one student in particular: Jeremy Moore who is featured in Microsoft’s latest YouthSpark Stars. However, it’s only the first step and while we have had some success, as a distance learning pilot, we are still overcoming challenges. Real success will be the sustainability of this program with Computer Science as a curriculum offering to include AP Computer Science as well as Introduction to Computer Science.
When I learned that Jeremy had never been an Honor Roll student and lacked an interest in school in general, I was surprised. This was not the impression I had gleaned from working with him in the Intro to CS class. He was our brightest student and the most taken with what we had to teach. Speaking with his mother, Tammy, I learned that he was a quiet boy to which I was equally surprised. Jeremy is certainly reserved and completely absorbed with computers but if you engage him on any of his computer projects, he can get a good dialogue happening. If that wasn’t enough, within the first semester, Tammy hit me with another surprise: Jeremy made Honor Roll and his attendance at school was significantly up from prior years. She was floored and attributed it all to this class.
To further encourage Jeremy’s pursuit of a Computer Science career, I lobbied for him to come out to Washington State to job shadow someone at Microsoft Corporation and visit at least one of the schools in the area. I was hoping to culture shock him a little and expose him to life as a CS engineer by showing him the workplace of the Company that brought him this opportunity. To make the case, I had him gather some letters of recommendation and write a short Bio that I could circulate. Not long after, Microsoft’s YouthSpark program was looking for inspirational stories of YouthSpark programs that had high impact on Youth. TEALs falls under this umbrella and Jeremy’s story came up for consideration. Here’s his Bio:
My name is Jeremy Moore and I’m 17 years old and I have been interested in computers for about 5 years, ever since we got our first computer. I have been fascinated with how much can be created with them and always wanted to create a computer game but thought it would never be within my reach. Then, one day I took my first steps into programming by downloading and teaching myself GameMaker Language (GML). Though it is a very limited language, at the time I was excited to be able to create simple projects. Since then, I have programmed engines for a few games using GML and in my spare time have started to take a few steps into a more advanced language by learning the basics of C++.
Computers have impacted my life in probably more ways than I know. So far, I have made many friends and learned a lot from them. I would like to continue to learn a lot more. I took the Intro to Computer Science class at my High School because I really want to be a programmer but until this class offering, had no idea where to begin.
The people involved with the class have helped me more than I thought possible. This Computer Science class has also changed my feelings towards school and now I actually feel as if there is a reason for me to go. It gives me something to look forward to because it’s something I’m genuinely interested in. This class has also taught me some good habits that have already begun helping me in other subjects. I want to get a Computer Science degree because it is something I love, and it’s something I want to do and would love to do for the rest of my life.
Jeremy Moore: YouthSpark Video @Microsoft Corporation
From all of the potential stories nominated, Jeremy’s bubbled up to the top, which meant Microsoft would showcase his story on the YouthSpark page and use him as part of future Ad Campaigns. His story would be captured on video and that meant Microsoft was sending a film crew to Beattyville, KY. The timing did not work for me to be present with them due to an accident I had in Argentina. This would make the 2nd time non-climbers would be visiting this region and I would not be present to temper any bias or showcase the best aspects of life there. I was really nervous about impressions and such, but each time has happened without incident or bias. Everyone has come back with positive impressions and I am thankful for the people and the town for helping make that happen. If you’ve never been to Lee County, you might be in for a shock. It’s like stepping back in time. There isn’t even a Cinema in this town, let alone reliable internet! There is, however, some of the best sandstone rock climbing in the world, which is why I have any interest at all in the region. J
While I am excited that this story will be shared and we can use it to help generate interest in helping reach other kids in similar ways, TEALs, Jeremy and the school are still facing challenges. The thing I appreciate most about the kids I have in this class is not just that they are smart and challenging themselves with this class, but they are humble as well. They seriously don’t understand how smart or capable they are and confidence is not that easy to create in someone. Jeremy and his peers struggle with this every day. The focus on Jeremy with the film crew out there and the pressure to do better on his next ACT to help him with his college applications must challenge his confidence in his ability to sustain this level of performance. Likewise, I have seen students struggle in our class and want to give up. Indeed, today we lost our only girl in the class. The content and concepts are new and different and sometimes out of their league. Helping them see that they are capable, that their hard work or commitment to see this class through is important and will have a lasting impression (not to mention the experience of being a founder and contributor that makes the class better for next year and years after (hopefully)) is not easy to communicate. How can they see the future like I can see it for them?
Losing our only girl was, to me, a huge disappointment and a failure on the part of our team to engage her properly. Despite that I was living in Kentucky, have 12 years experience with remote work and was physically available to help when the remote Industry Professional could not, I still could not prevent this from happening. There were too many gaps and impressions that could not be fixed. Some of it was that I was not in the class full-time and not being there consistently meant that I missed warning signs and could not influence patterns that might have changed this outcome. However, we are a reasonable group and have since adapted the program to take into account the lessons from this first half of the year. I am sad that it’s not enough and that she won’t stick this out to see the difference. My only hope is that the other 2 students who also expressed discontent and frustration will stay and see this through. We are doing everything we can to provide the learning material they need and at a pace that works for them. In a small class, it is challenging to adapt to everyone, but we are making it work. In fact a few other unplanned successes have come out of the work and volunteer time we have contributed.
First, now, not only does Jeremy have the opportunity to job shadow in WA, but all of the Seniors have been extended this chance thanks to the money Microsoft pays to the school for every hour of volunteer time from the TEALS team. The Superintendent, Jim Evans, recently approved the use of these funds for this purpose. Unfortunately, our girl student will no longer be eligible, but perhaps her opening will afford an opportunity for the entire class of 6 students (3 Seniors and 3 Sophomores) to go. Also, recently the school has partnered with EKU (Eastern Kentucky University) to hire a Co-op who will essentially replace me in the classroom and help us with the supplemental material we are currently lacking. This person will be paid for by EKU and starts at the end of the month, which brings us closer to solving our sustainability problem.
We are still in search of a full-time, credited teacher to teach this and AP Computer Science next year. Microsoft will still be involved as a distance pilot with an Industry Professional teaching the content, but the In-Service teacher will use this resource to learn the curriculum and begin teaching the content themselves over time. Microsoft has a 2 year commitment to this to make it happen. LCHS has 1 more year with us for Intro and if awarded AP CS, will have 2 years for that. If you are still reading and know someone who would like to help out, please contact me! In-Service means this person must be living and teaching in the classroom, daily.
As you have read, this program is having a huge impact, and you can have an impact, too. Ask me how because there are more Jeremy’s that can be inspired! J