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|Award for Teaching Excellence Recipient: Eric Allata|
As a founding faculty member of the Academy for Software Engineering (AFSE), Eric Allatta has taught at this non-selective, lottery-based admission high school in New York City since 2012 and been a part of evolving the Academy’s program.
Eric originally joined AFSE as a math teacher, tasked with building a bridge between mathematics and computer science (CS). At that time, he was a relatively new teacher and had never taught CS before. Many incoming 9th grade AFSE students were not performing at grade level in reading or math, yet Eric and his team figured out how to create rigorous pathways for all students of all abilities. Eric’s dedication to his discipline, and his commitment to creating a strong and inclusive culture at AFSE, has translated into a passion for rigorous content and inclusive pedagogy for all students and his classroom is a model of the ideas behind CS for All.
In contrast to elective classes that appeal only to the students with the ability and inclination, Eric currently teaches the entire 10th grade using a pedagogy that is both aligned to CS Principles (CSP) and to students algebra and geometry courses. He believes that an inclusive course means content and pedagogy is connected to math. Using Bootstrap pedagogy of explicit problem translation, Eric and his team have developed a skills based pedagogy that aligns the four year curriculum.
Eric’s most successful math/CS activity is “the flag project”. Students are asked to choose a flag of a country and design a program to display the flag using the Racket image library by overlapping various geometric shapes, and allows for student choice on the stylistic and cognitive levels and challenges every student group. The flags must also be scalable by changing a single value which all other definitions must refer to. In this way students are thinking about ratios, beginning to think abstractly and parametrically, and get a sense of vector graphics by programming their own. Once the program is finished, students reflect on the process and conduct research into the geometry of their flags, mapping well to the CSP Create performance task and is a great end of first unit project for students. Final student presentations reveal truly insightful connections between the real world, the students’ own heritage, geometry, and CS. It is a moment when everyone experiences how connected everything is in the real world, beyond the walls of school.
Eric’s pedagogical practices not only inspire his own students, but have also been recognized by peers. Eric thinks deeply about CS education as a discipline, and then turns those thoughts into engagement and advocacy in the space. His experience of working with ALL students in a large urban classroom of students with diverse learning needs have forged a commitment to personalized instruction and rigor.
In addition to his work at AFSE, Eric is a College Board consultant and leads workshops on the AP CS Principles course, having been an official pilot teacher for the past three years. He also moderates the CSNYC education meetup with 1800+ members. He has led professional development for the Bootstrap and Beauty and Joy of Computing curriculum organizations and is a NYC Dept. of Ed. Computer Science Peer Observer.