Tennessee Tech sees state’s first K-12 Computer Science Education program graduate

COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech has the first K-12 Computer Science Education program in the state to gain approval and enroll students. That program has had its first completer, who passed the test and applied for state license, according to Jeremy Wendt, professor of educational technology and department chair.

Logan Quillen finished her Master of Arts in educational technology and computer science education license endorsement this past May. She is teaching in White County and is the first person to attain the license from the program at Tech.  

“I never would have dreamed of being the first graduate of a program for a college, let alone a state. In a way, it is odd, but it is also something that I am proud of,” Quillen said. “Being able to achieve my master’s was a proud accomplishment in my life, and since this endorsement is a part of that, it comes along with that feeling. It is pretty cool though as well. I mean, how many people can say that they were the first graduate with a specific endorsement?”  

Wendt said, “Having the very first computer science education licensure candidate in the state is a huge deal, ahead of all of our other partner universities and sister universities. Just having the relationship between us and computer science is unusual and helpful. But for us to help put that critical infrastructure of computer science in the state is a big deal.” 

It took a lot of planning, financial backing, documentation and collaboration between the university and the state over the course of several years for it all to come together, according to Wendt.  

Cory Gleasman, assistant professor in curriculum and instruction, specializing in computer science education, played a key role in this success.  He developed the program and teaches the courses in the concentration.

The new computer science education K-12 license allows teachers to have the skillset to teach computer coding to kindergarteners.  

“The curriculum is new and it’s there, but it’s developing,” Wendt said. “I really anticipate we’ll move towards this license for people, kind of like a librarian in a school, that you would have a person in an elementary school whose specialty is computer science, and they’re teaching coding to second graders and third graders and learning about computer science earlier, which is what other countries have been doing for years.”

Wendt said you can gauge the interest in people wanting to get involved in this program by the increase in our computer science or cybersecurity.

“They have a vested interest here at Tech because they need people coming into their programs qualified. So, if they have a student coming out of high school who’s never taken a computer science class or took one as a senior in high school, they’re not really prepared.”

Wendt said that starting students younger with that exposure to computer science, in turn helps prepare students coming to campus. 

“Having those teachers that are qualified to do that in those schools has a long-term impact. It’s a logical step in the process to get there,” Wendt said. 

Tech had to apply for the state to do an undergraduate initial license, which is one pathway for students to come in as freshmen and do four years as a computer science education major. The university has also added it as a post-baccalaureate program. 

“We’ve gained just very quickly, a lot of students who are doing this at the undergraduate level, the add on, endorsements, that’s been the most popular so far, the certificate at the graduate level with our graduate students. Because it sets them apart outside of just a standard license, it gives them something in a field that’s just growing dramatically. It gives them that edge,” Wendt said. 

Tech currently has several students in the program on both the traditional four-year and the post-baccalaureate pathway.  

Wendt’s vision is that Tech is perceived as an innovator, a leader, with this program. 

“Other schools [are] looking to us to look at that curriculum.  And then the state of Tennessee congratulating us on jumping in with this license. We knew it was coming. And so, we had started prepping for it.” Wendt said.

For more information on the computer science education programs at Tech please visit www.tntech.edu/education.  

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