Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday (May 2) that Lake Hamilton High School teacher Karma Turner is the first Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year winner.
Turner was one of five finalists for the award, which netted her $15,000.
Hutchinson said Turner has been teaching computer science since 2016 and teaches four levels of computer science, an AP computer science course, and an independent computer science study enhanced with entrepreneurship. She also helped develop the state’s computer science standards. Earlier, she taught math for more than 20 years.
“Computer science has just renewed my passion for education,” she said after receiving the award. “It just, our kids love it so much, and it helps them see the need for their future and what they’re going to do in their future.”
The four finalists were awarded $2,500 each. Those were Carl Frank, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts in Hot Springs; Josefina Perez, Springdale High School; Brenda Qualls, Bryant High School; and Kimberly Raup, Conway High School.
The five were chosen from among 30 applicants. Reviewers considered the quality of the applications; the applicants’ vision for the value of computer science education; their understanding of how implementing computer science education exemplifies quality teaching; and the local, state and national impact of computer science education.
The awards were created in December 2018 and funded by the Arkansas Department of Education Office of Computer Science, which was created by Hutchinson’s Computer Science Initiative.
Hutchinson made requiring all high schools to teach computer science a centerpiece of his 2014 election campaign in ads featuring his granddaughter. He said today that when the initiative began, less than 1,000 students were taking the classes. Last year those numbers increased to roughly 6,000 in grades 9-12, and this year more than 8,000 students are taking the courses.
Hutchinson annually embarks on a tour of high schools to tout the initiative and encourage students to take the courses. Those travels have taken him this week to Elkins, West Memphis, Buffalo Island Central High School in Monette, and other places.
“Everywhere I go, I see the difference that teachers make,” Hutchinson said. He referred to a French teacher in Manila and an assistant football coach in Beebe who obtained the training in order to teach the subject.