One of IPS’ own has been named by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) as one of the state’s Computer Science Champs!

The honor goes to Genevieve McLeish-Petty, a computer science teacher at Cold Spring School, who also serves as assistant Vex Robotics coach.

She’s one of only three computer science champs in Marion County and the only elementary-level teacher named in the county. The IDOE chose 13 educators throughout Indiana for the list. Teachers are selected based on a variety of factors, including location, position, grades taught, and experience teaching computer science.

“Genevieve has many great qualities,” said Jacob Koressel, computer science specialist for the IDOE. “Not many people in Indiana serve as a dedicated elementary computer science teacher, and as such, Genevieve can contribute to the larger computer science education conversation from a unique perspective.”

As a Computer Science Champ, educators are expected to serve as a means of support to other students and schools as they work on bringing computer science to their students. McLeish-Petty is flattered by the designation.

“I am very honored to be in such great company with district directors and innovators,” she said. “I am excited that as one of few computer science teachers in elementary I will be able to offer help to others who are starting.”

Computer science, however, wasn’t McLeish-Petty’s initial focus when she entered education. She taught English at Northwest High School for 20 years before switching her focus as a teacher.

“What I noticed was how many students had become uninterested in learning,” she said. “They wanted to know how they were supposed to do something and wanted to know ‘What was the right answer?’ This is why computer science is so important. So many people think that computer science is typing and learning Microsoft Office, but it is so much more.  It is learning how to use it, of course, but how to use it safely and effectively, why it works, why designers made it that way, advancements such as robotics, sensors, and so much more. Computer science allows kids the opportunity to think about problems and solutions, to develop an empowering attitude that they can affect change, learn decision-making, and design a better future.”

Being at Cold Spring, a STEM-certified school that takes a strong and innovative approach to the state’s plans for computer science implementation, is the perfect place for McLeish-Petty.

“Cold Spring hired a full-time computer science teacher and treats it as a related-arts special. This means that I get to teach every child in the building computer and technology skills. The reason this is great for learning is that I teach them the tools that their teachers can integrate into their lessons without losing core instructional time on technology lessons and struggles,” said McLeish-Petty. “I work with teachers on the things the students are learning and they will tell me what they are teaching and I will work with the students to make that more meaningful and engaging in the class. This is a work in process, but it is showing success.”

According to Koressel, computer science as a state initiative is relatively new.

“While there has been quite a bit of progress, we still have work to do. Initiatives of this size truly take a village, and the expertise of Indiana’s own established computer science teachers can be a great resource,” he said. “Often, computer science teachers may be new to CS and/or the only CS teacher in their building (or district). A strong community of practice and identification of mentors can help to alleviate this challenge.”

To help students get over the hump of thinking computer science isn’t for them, McLeish-Petty draws on her decades-long career in education to show the fun side of the curriculum.

“I use games when possible, making sure to find as many opportunities to put students in the place of designers and manipulators,” she said. “Coding through Minecraft Education, Dash and Dot Robots, OzoBots, EvoBots, OSMOs and many other technology tools are being used in my room and by the students at Cold Spring, but none are as important as the mindset that the teachers have and support of administrators as they make computer science a priority.”

Overall, McLeish-Petty views her new title of Computer Science Champ as an opportunity to effect change.

“The CS Champs will allow me to see and be aware of decisions that are being made about the future of computer science and hopefully help me facilitate the seamless and meaningful implementation in other schools,” she said.

Learn more about McLeish-Petty and the other Computer Science Champs here.