CONCORD, NH (PRESS RELEASE) – A Christa McAuliffe School teacher will spend next school year teaching kids to love computer science, thanks to a sabbatical named for the Concord teacher whose legacy continues to inspire great educational ideas.
Heather Drolet, a technology integrator at the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord, has been awarded the 2017 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The sabbatical, created in 1986 in honor of the Concord High School teacher and astronaut, gives an exemplary New Hampshire teacher a year off with pay and a materials budget to bring a great educational idea to fruition.
Drolet’s great idea is “NH Kids Code,” a project aimed at inspiring elementary school students to explore computer science while honing “the 4 C’s:” critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. She will bring the project on the road, for a week at a time, to fifth-grade classrooms at 25 elementary schools around the state. Kids will develop their own mobile app that corresponds with something else they are also studying – an app about the water cycle could be integrated into science curriculum, for instance, or an app that created history timelines could be integrated into social studies lessons.
Drolet is on a particular mission to engage more girls in computer science along with their male counterparts. She has established a “Confident Coders” curriculum which she will share, free, with teachers who want to use it in their schools.
“I want to get kids excited about coding in a relevant, real-world application and get girls excited about coding and spread excitement and confidence,” she said. She will also be conducting small-group trainings for educators on incorporating computer science into their current curricula.
“The projects that teachers take on through the McAuliffe Sabbatical truly enrich the lives of New Hampshire kids,” said Katie Merrow, vice president of community impact at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. “Getting kids engaged and excited about computer science from a young age will open so many possibilities in their schooling and in their lives and careers right here in New Hampshire.”
Drolet, who has taught at the Christa McAuliffe School since it opened in 2012, runs “Christa’s Coders,” a computer programming club, where she challenges students to create apps that “make a difference in the world,” like encouraging volunteerism or helping kids learn to read. She works to integrate technology across the school’s curriculum and led efforts that resulted in the school’s program being recognized as an Apple Distinguished Program and certification as a Project Lead the Way LAUNCH school. She holds a Master’s of Education in Instructional Technology from New England College in Henniker.
“This is an incredible honor,” said Drolet, of being chosen for the sabbatical. Teaching at a school named for McAuliffe, she is keenly aware of the Concord teacher’s life and work and legacy. “It is so powerful to be given this opportunity,” she said. “I just want people to know how intensely grateful I am.
“When I walk through the doors of the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord, NH each morning, I can’t help but be reminded of our namesake’s legacy,” Drolet wrote in her sabbatical application. “Her joy of learning, her courage, her commitment to innovation and thinking big. To teach in the same city where Christa taught, and to experience the culture of its progressive and supportive educational community, is an honor I wish every teacher could experience.”
Schools interested in hosting a weeklong “NH Kids Code” program during the 2017-18 school year should contact Drolet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical was established by then-Gov. John H. Sununu and the New Hampshire legislature to honor McAuliffe’s life and work.
The statewide program has been administered by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation since 1990 with oversight from a steering committee that includes representatives from the office of the governor and the State Board of Education, the President of the New Hampshire Senate, the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the Presidents of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers and a McAuliffe family member.
About the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire. The Foundation manages a growing collection of more than 1,800 funds created by generous individuals, families and businesses, and awards nearly $40 million in grants and scholarships every year. The Foundation works with generous and visionary citizens to maximize the power of their giving, supports great work happening in our communities and leads and collaborates on high-impact initiatives. For more information, please visit www.nhcf.org or call 603-225-6641.