• Academics
Teacher Tracey Sconyers Expands Computer Science Program

Students learn technology and computational thinking skills from UPrep's Computer Science Teacher Tracey Sconyers.

  • Computer Science
  • Technology
Lisa Kennedy

“Understanding technology and computational thinking is a fundamental skill that every student needs before entering college,” says Tracey Sconyers, UPrep’s computer science teacher. A former software engineer in Silicon Valley for 15 years prior to discovering a passion for teaching, Sconyers came to UPrep two years ago from Lakeside School. Since then, she has done an extraordinary job of building the Computer Science (CS) program on the foundation laid prior to her arrival.

A content specialist and facilitator for Code.org, a nonprofit organization, Sconyers develops curriculum and trains teachers all over the U.S. during the summer. As a result, she is able to bring the latest practices in K-12 computer science to UPrep, and help the school meet its goal of deepening next generation learning. As the vice president of the Puget Sound chapter of Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), Sconyers meets other CS teachers from around the state, exchanging ideas and building UPrep’s connections.

Sconyers is teaching seven courses that she developed on a rotating basis, three in the Middle School and four in the Upper School. Student interest is growing and enrollment is up in all of the CS classes, with a huge increase in the number of girls. During spring semester 2019, Computer Science I had two sections and six students took the Computer Science AP test. “I’m very excited about increasing the diversity in our CS classes so that they represent the student body as a whole. I want those students who don’t self-identify as STEM students to join, because any student can code,” says Sconyers. “I want to increase student confidence—it’s really just another skill set to learn.”

During the January intensive term, Sconyers taught a highly subscribed Mobile App class that she had wanted to teach for years. Aimed at Middle School students without any background, the class had students learning to code by making games in the morning and then creating apps for five teacher “clients” who had a service commitment that could benefit from some help. Students interviewed the teachers to learn their wants, put together proposals, and then went through an engineering design process—making prototypes, doing alpha and beta testing, and applying their coding skills. “Students loved it, and I loved it,” says Sconyers. “Their enthusiasm was off the charts.”

Plans for the future include expanding the offerings so they appeal to an even wider variety of students, as well as integrating much of the material into the math curriculum. Some of the lessons extend beyond the world of computer science. “There’s a lot of resilience training in CS classes because things don’t go right the first time,” says Sconyers. “We talk about how to deal with the feelings you have at that point and how to celebrate successes.”

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