Choosing a career is one of the most critical decisions one will make in their life. It can be the difference between a life full of passion and fulfillment or of one full of regrets and dissatisfaction.
Deborah Kariuki chose her path because it fed her passion for teaching and for computer science. She has been enjoying a career full of purpose, and her latest journey with teaching teachers how to bring a joy for computer science to the classroom has been extremely rewarding for her.
She shared some of her thoughts with us in a recent interview where she talks about the path that led her to computer science and UMBC, how UMBC is helping to address our nation’s need for more skills and knowledge in the area of computer science at the K-12 levels, and the exciting educational opportunity UMBC is offering certified teachers across the country.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
Can you talk about your path to teaching at UMBC?
My journey to becoming a faculty here at UMBC started off when I was a software engineer. I was a software engineer for sixteen years and during that time I worked in all levels of software development. I truly loved working in the field of computer science and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Then in 2010, there was a call for the need of computer science educators. Right then, I knew my next journey. I decided to become a computer science educator and got certified to teach computer science in high school. Back then, I took every level of computer science out there and I was so thrilled by how excited the students were when it came to this study.
From agriculture to medicine to infrastructures to education, all levels of our world today are being touched by computer science. There is a real need for students to understand computer science.
Now, just like we don’t teach math for students to become mathematicians, we’re not teaching computer science for students to become computer scientists. We are teaching them computer science because they need to know we are living in a digitized world. This world of ours has become highly computerized. We want our students to become more than just consumers of technology. We want them to be able to create and to be more efficient in living in this technological world.
That’s why in 2017, here in Maryland, the governor and the legislators passed a law, house bill 281. This law mandates that all high schools by the year 2021-2022 should offer a high level computer science course.
What did this law do? It created awareness that we have a shortage of computer science teachers.
How has UMBC answered the call for this teacher shortage?
UMBC has always been at the forefront of helping to solve issues in our state. UMBC was the first university in Maryland to create a master’s program with a concentration in computer science education. The Master of Arts in Education program offers several courses that are going to help teachers become highly-qualified in teaching computer science, as well as offer professional development in their schools.
We do this by offering teachers a culturally responsive course that allows them to help their students stay ahead and not get left behind in computer science. We also offer all our content courses, as well as the pedagogy of teaching those classes. Additionally, we offer an introduction to computer science, advanced computer science, networking, cyber security, artificial intelligence, data science method class, computational thinking, a capstone, and computers in all subjects. We are going to differentiate these courses for the K through 5 and also for the K6 through K12. So this sixth through twelve will have more computer science courses while the K through 5 will have the computational thinking courses that will help the teachers teach to the levels of the students.
What is unique about the UMBC MAE program in computer science?
The MAE program is going to prepare teachers to teach computer science in two different tracks. We have a K through 5 track and we have a 6 through 12 track. We believe that our program is also unique in the fact that we are inviting every certified teacher who would like to come to our program to join us. A certified teacher doesn’t have to have any background in math, physics, computer science. They only have to be a certified teacher in the country and they can take our program. It’s also unique in that it’s 100 percent online. We are so happy to be able to offer that so that teachers can take their courses in the comfort of their homes. And once certified teachers take the culturally responsive course that every teacher must take, they can then take the other courses in the order that they’d like.
Why should someone consider UMBC’s MAE program?
Our MAE program is essentially designed for teachers by teachers. People from the industry, including specialists, have reviewed our material and have concluded that what we are offering is a highly deserving program for all teachers.
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