August 22, 2017
Every month in our UCCI newsletter, we feature one of the extraordinary educators we have worked with at the UCCI Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange. We started this feature so that we could have a way of publicly showcasing how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are. We archive every issue of the Teacher Spotlight here, on the UCCI website, at our Teacher Spotlight page.
This month the spotlight is on Dan Shuster, Math and Computer Science Teacher, Royal High School. Dan will be a Teacher Exchange Leader at our upcoming UCCI Teacher Exchange, September 15 & 16, 2017 at Simi Valley High School in Simi Valley, CA, focusing on two UCCI courses: Geometry + Computer Visualization/Simulation and Algebra 2 for the 21st Century, and registration is now open!
In your own words: What do you do, and why?
I have taught math and computer science for 29 years. I currently teach AP Statistics, AP Computer Science (CS) and the two UCCI hybrid Math/ CS courses: Algebra 2 for the 21st Century and Geometry + Computer Visualization/Simulation. I have always been an advocate for technology in the math classroom. My goal as a math teacher is to foster a love for math and problem-solving in a fun and relaxing atmosphere. Technology has been one way that I have implemented that goal. Currently, I am a crusader for computer science education and I have been building a K-12 CS curriculum within our school district. The UCCI hybrid courses I now teach are an important part of the equation as they enable me to reach students who might not otherwise have been exposed to a CS course. My proudest accomplishment as a teacher happened last year. I visited 51 elementary classrooms on my own time to teach a one-hour lesson using the Scratch computer programming platform. I do this because learning CS gives students an opportunity to eventually have an enjoyable and lucrative career - and possibly change the world!
What was your background prior to your current role, and how did you decide to become a teacher?
I decided I wanted to be a math teacher near the end of my freshman year in college while re-taking Calculus. I realized how much I loved math and wanted to share that love with others. I was inspired by my high school Calculus teacher, Keith Barker. It was obvious to me that he really loved his job and I wanted to do what he did. I ended up teaching with him at my alma mater, Royal High School! Before that, I had planned to get a degree in accounting and considered a career in the FBI. I have always been fascinated by crime-solving!
Had you taught integrated curriculum before teaching the UCCI Courses: Algebra 2 for the 21st Century and Geometry + Computer Visualization/Simulation? If not, what led to you to teach these courses?
I had never taught an integrated course until last year. I am extremely grateful to Pam Castleman, a former administrator in our school district, for pointing these courses out to me. After hearing me express my frustration about trying to get students to squeeze a computer science course into their packed schedules, she told me about hybrid courses developed by UCCI. These courses combine my two longtime teaching passions, so I excitedly dove in head-first!
How did you prepare for teaching these courses?
Since I had already taught math and computer science for 28 years, I possessed both of the skill sets needed to teach these hybrid courses. It was a perfect fit. So I had basically put in the prep work my whole career, but now I had to get specific on how to connect the two topics in a meaningful way. So in planning lessons, I looked for topics that were natural fits to apply math concepts to coding, and vice-versa.
You presented at our recent UCCI Conference on Integrated Curriculum along with your colleague Jeramie Oliveira, in a morning session focusing on the UCCI Course Geometry + Computer Visualization/Simulation. Please tell us about your experience with this presentation.
That was a great opportunity. After teaching the two hybrid courses for nearly a year, it was nice to be able to share my experiences and hopefully inspire others to take on this challenge. The audience was very receptive and I made a couple of good connections with teachers there. One of the teachers in attendance showed me a program he wrote during lunch that he made based on my comment that making art with code is a great way to connect Math and CS. That was very cool!
What are your top three resources (online or otherwise) that you have found most useful in teaching these UCCI courses?