CNTHS celebrated a $10,000 donation to the Computer Programming Department. L to R: Principal Chris Bajmakovich, Teacher Stephen Hutchinson, Teacher Kate Herrin, and Superintendent Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley.
The Lake Ridge Calumet New Tech High School Computer Programming Department has an additional $10,000 in funding thanks to some diligence and forward thinking from computer science teacher Kate Herrin.
Herrin is being lauded for landing an exclusive prize from Code.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing students across the country with opportunities to learn computer science and coding skills.
Herrin is in her third year as a teacher at CNTHS. The Purdue West Lafayette graduate said she took a chance and entered a national contest sponsored by Code.org. She found the content daunting, as the group would only select one high school and one middle school per state to receive the award.
“Code.org is where I get my curriculum. I am a verified teacher with Code.org, and back in November, I got an email from them about the ‘CS Leaders Prize.’ I said, ‘Hey! I’ll look into this.’”
Herrin said she shared the idea with Assistant New Tech Director Rae Lopez, as well as Title I Director Regin Johnson, both of whom enthusiastically supported it.
“We had to write a statement of support from the district and a statement of support from the principal,” Herrin said. “They were looking for school districts with free and reduced lunch, which we are.”
A couple weeks later, Herrin checked her email and found nothing. She decided to check her junk email folder and, to her astonishment, found the notification there.
“It had been in there for just a couple hours,” she said. “I was in class and said aloud, ‘Oh wow, we got $10,000 to expand our CS department!’ It was kind of amazing that we did that.”
According to Herrin, the prize money came with a caveat.
“We had to agree to teach a new CS course next year because this is about expanding computer science in our school,” she said. “I agreed to teach two Advanced Placement computer science principles classes next year.”
Lopez said she knew Code.org had a good reputation for helping students and was eager to apply.
“They have been around for at least 30 years and they are known for teaching coding. We can spend [the prize money] how we want on our classes,” said Lopez. “We are going to purchase spheres, which are balls that students can program to maneuver how they want—move left, right, go forward and reverse, around corners. That’s programming, and students really enjoy learning that way.”
“This prize money will absolutely help our computer programming students,” said Johnson. “We will be able to offer them more opportunities to get the kinds of experiences that will make them competitive in the programming field.”
Lopez praised Herrin for her initiative and leadership in applying for the Code.org scholarship.
“[Herrin] loves knowledge, so I wasn’t surprised she did that, but I was very proud of her,” Lopez said. “She filled out all the paperwork, I signed what I had to sign, but it was all on her. She is in her third year and she’s doing great. She is very much a person who will take the initiative to get things done.”
Herrin is the daughter of CNTHS veteran History Teacher Denise Herrin.