THS educator named Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year


TEXARKANA, Texas – Mark Ahrens, professor of computer science and robotics at Texas High School, has been selected from among thousands of eligible teachers as the recipient of the 2021 Amazon Future Engineer of the Year award.

Ahrens is one of 10 award recipients across the United States to be recognized for this honor. The award comes with a $ 30,000 prize package, including $ 25,000 to expand computer science and / or robotics education in her school and a $ 5,000 cash prize for teachers.

The 10 teachers across the country who received the Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year award were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the teaching of the year. computer science, a recommendation from a school administrator and compelling personal anecdotes. about their school and their students. Scholarship America reviewed the applicants and selected the winners.

Ahrens, who applied for the award due to program funding, said originally he had no idea there was a personal cash award. He was pleasantly surprised by his principal Carla Dupree with the news.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even sure we matched all the things they were looking for at the start,” he said. “But I was looking for the criteria and requirements they had on (the app), and I was like, ‘I’m doing all of this. “So I filled out a request.

“Frankly, I forgot about it until they surprised me. I didn’t even realize what was going on until I won it. When I opened it and started reading it, it took me a second and I was like, “oh wow, they actually picked me. And I went through several types of emotions at that time. It’s crazy how it all happened. “

Ahrens started his career in education seven years ago. He took over as a computer science teacher at Texas High School who started with just two sections. He worked to move the curriculum from these two introductory sections to a current eight-class curriculum.

Its aim is to help develop the skills and knowledge of students to support and develop the regional tech industry, using CTE-based activities, which companies seek to employ.

“I’m just trying to target some students who are not on the four-year path and prepare them for more workforce after high school,” Ahrens said. “This is really where I wanted to go with this money.”

Ahrens said he had already seen the effect his classes and preparation had on students after graduating from Texas High.

“A lot of my students end up going to the big universities, and one of the first year courses that engineering students have to take is a programming course,” he said. “What they need to learn is something I teach them in the very first semester of Computer Science 1. So they’re sort of ready for this aspect already.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the market for computer professionals will grow by 11% between 2019 and 2029. And in May 2020, the median annual salary for occupations in computer and information technology was $ 91,250. .

With quality opportunities appearing to emerge in this area of ​​work, Ahrens said he just hopes that students interested in computer technology have the resources to stick with it.

“There is nothing to fear from IT and technology,” he said. “If I can learn it, believe me, anyone can learn it. There are a lot of things that come into play, but there are also a lot of things that can and that’s really what I do. I’m trying to tell my students. You don’t have to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg to do well in this field. An average person can go out there and make a really good living doing just the average thing. just a really, really good pitch. “

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