Teaching computer science
October 8, 2020
Senior instructor Cali (Girard) Miller has had a lot happen in the past six months. Along with making the transition to online teaching with the rest of the Culver Academies community, she married Humanities instructor Peter Miller, was named the first chairperson of the new Computer Science Department and now holds the Dicke Chair of Educational Technology.
She jokes that her department meetings will be short because, for the time being, she is the only faculty member in the department. But it doesn’t mean that she hasn't been busy developing the curriculum and collaborating with other members of the math and science departments for multi-disciplinary learning opportunities for the students.
She was already incorporating some of the computer science programming into the Culver curriculum, but Miller is going more in-depth in courses like coding (Java, Python, HTML, Java Script) and a combined computer science and an all-girl engineering class that will be co-taught with science instructor Jackie Carrillo.
Her current early morning class times do allow Miller to operate a hybrid class with students in the classroom and online (photo). Her students are almost evenly divided between those living on campus and those in the Asia/Pacific region.
She has taught math at Culver since arriving from Christopher Newport University as a faculty fellow in 2006. She has left briefly twice. The first time to obtain her master’s degree from the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia. The second time was to teach at the Asheville School, coming back in 2018. During her time, Miller was named one of the first Lauridsen Fellows, received the Gen. Delmar T. Spivey Award, and received the Ralph A. Manuel Award, as voted by the student body. She also serves as an assistant coach for the Academies’ rowing teams.
When it came time to move classes online, Miller said it was not that difficult to move the information over since much of it is readily available. What she did miss was the collaboration and connections that come from classroom interactions. Group work suffered, she said, but students did seem to come together after about two weeks. She also made sure that students knew she was available, telling them “I’m here to for you. I want you to get better.”
That attitude comes from one special high school teacher, she explained, who took the time to help her in math. That’s when she realized that she wasn’t “bad at math,” which is what her previous teachers had told her, but that they had done a poor job of teaching. By the time she was in high school, she was serving as a teacher’s assistant helping other students.