CSU Alumnus First to Earn new Computer Science Teaching Endorsement

Mike EvansCOLUMBUS, Ga. — A LaGrange High School teacher for a decade, Mike Evans might not strike the casual observer as a pioneer.

But, thanks to Columbus State, a coincidence and his initiative, Evans has become Georgia’s first teacher with a computer science endorsement — meaning he now has special expertise to share with his many students who are curious about pursuing a career in computing.

“I had a large population of students not being serviced that had a big interest in computer science,” he said. “You have a lot of students who are interested in artificial intelligence, mobile computing, robotics and just basic programming.”

Until 2011, most high school classes focusing on computing were taught by teachers with a certification to teach business courses. That’s OK for students interested in learning the intricacies of Microsoft Office, but it doesn’t serve well students with more advanced interests in, say, programming.

“It’s really a nationwide problem,” said Wayne Summers, director of CSU’s TSYS School of Computer Science. “We don’t have trained teachers, so their students never really learn what computer science is all about. They miss out on the excitement of computer science."

That means many high school students enter college considering a computer science major without knowing what’s expected or the importance of establishing a strong foundation in mathematics before moving into computer science.

Evans, 38, graduated from Columbus State in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Computer Science and, somewhere near the end of his studies, Summers informed Evans that he only needed a couple of education courses beyond that degree to meet all the requirements for Georgia’s new teaching endorsement for computer science. Two CSU courses during summer 2011 helped him meet his new goal, and the boost in his teacher certification status also improved his salary.

“I thought it was cool,” Evans said.

Last fall, he got his endorsement and immediately started offering an overview programming course at LaGrange High. He’s got ideas about other, more advanced courses, but he wants to gauge student interest first.

Columbus State was able to establish the foundation for its computer science teaching endorsement and launch several other initiatives as a result of a 2009 grant for $117,369 from the National Science Foundation that partnered CSU with Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech, along with CSU, has been a proponent of the new computer science teaching endorsement.

Before returning to school, Evans had primarily taught drafting courses at LaGrange High on the basis of his experience as an industry draftsman at Milliken Textiles. His interest in computing grew as so much design work that once was done by hand became computer-assisted design. He returned to college about five years ago, working full-time while he pursued his bachelor’s degree and then the endorsement.

“Right now, I’m thoroughly enjoying teaching,” he said. “My future endeavors will probably be in that realm although I might go back to CSU for another degree in educational leadership. I like dealing with kids, which is one reason I became a teacher.”

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 Caption for photo: Mike Evans pauses before teaching a spring computing class at LaGrange High School.

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