MMS Teacher Earns National Recognition

MMS Teacher ​Earns National Recognition for Teaching Excellence in Computer Science
Posted on 05/30/2018

Marty FishMason Middle School Coding & Robotics STEMLab teacher Marty Fish was chosen by the Infosys Foundation and Computer Science Teachers Association as one of five teachers in the country to receive the 2018 CSTA / Infosys Foundation USA Award for Teaching Excellence. The award, launched in 2017, is designed specifically to highlight outstanding computer science teachers from all grade levels who have been in the computer science classroom for at least two years.

Fish started an after-school Coding and Robotics club in 2013. He then worked with his school administration and the Mason Schools Foundation to develop the club into a semester-long class. The Mason Middle School Coding and Robotics STEM Lab now reaches over 300 students each year. Since its inception, Fish has introduced coding to over 1,000 middle school students. He is interested in helping grow the number of elementary and middle school teachers who are including computer science in their courses.

According to Dan Little, Innovation Learning Coach at Mason City Schools, Fish is “one of the most student centered, compassionate, hardworking, and innovative teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Earning this accomplishment allowed Fish to attend the Infosys CrossRoads Conference in Scotts Valley California, which brings thought leaders together to explore ideas on increasing access to high quality education in computer science, coding and making, with a particular focus on equity and inclusion.

​The process for selection involved submitting responses to several essays, letters of recommendation, and supplemental materials. When asked to describe a computer science concept that is important for students to learn and understand, and to explain how it relates to more complex concepts that students will encounter, here was Fish's response.

It's not the students' fault. Throughout their educational careers, the vast majority of their classes teach them that there is one 'right' answer to every question. And there is only one appropriate method to reach that answer. Students learn from very early on that they have just one shot to get things right. If they cannot perform in that moment - on that high-stakes assessment, they they are wrong and risk failure. And failure is always bad, We train our students into believing that there is only one pathway to a singular, correct answer. We continually reinforce the idea that failure is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs.

And all of that is wrong.

I have a poster that I made hanging prominently in my room - it says "FAILURE... is just part of the process."

Throughout their semester with me, I try to continually reinforce the idea that failure is an expected and accepted learning experience that is only negative if ignored. In our final "Innovation Projects," I want my students to try to tackle a big idea - even if they aren't sure initially how they are going to make ti work, I don't want them to choose something easy just because they are confident that they can accomplish it. To encourage them, I emphasize that a perfectly working project is not required for an excellent grade. I tell that that creators of games or robots spend years of their lives developing functional prototypes - and I'm giving them an hour a day for two weeks. When students realize that they will not be penalized for trying something - and failing, it reduces their anxiety and gives them the freedom to experiment, take risks and create.

And here's the truth: I think that the greatest gift that we give our students is the ability to make mistakes. To fail. And for that to be ok. We give them space to learn determination. Grit. Tenacity. Problem solving. Innovation. And I'm being perfectly honest when I say that I believe that the most important skills that we can cultivate in our students are the ones that allow them to see a problem, and to attack that problem with confidence.

​...Even if they have no idea how to start or whether they will ultimately succeed.​

​"​In addition to providing me the opportunity to attend this conference, the Teaching Excellence award will also allow me to attend the annual CSTA national conference - this year being held in Omaha, Nebraska in July​," explained Fish.​"While there, because I am Secretary of Ohio's CSTA Chapter, I will take part in the CSTA Chapter Leadership Summit, as well as have the opportunity to attend a variety of Computer Science related sessions.​"​

Fish has a busy summer ahead of him, as he is also planning to spend time in Columbus working with a group of CS educators from around Ohio, and the Ohio Department of Education, to develop our state's first set of Computer Science Education Standards.

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