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CSEd Week Teacher Spotlight: Holly Manswell

December 12, 2020

CS Ed week is an annual event that aims to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science. All this week, we’ll be taking the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of some amazing K-12 teachers who are working to expand computer science learning in the schools and classrooms where they teach.

Holly Manswell

Holly Manswell
Special Education Teacher, Hostos Lincoln Academy Bronx, NY

Tell us about yourself
I live in Pennsylvania, but work as a Special Education Teacher and Dean in an Early College Initiative school in the South Bronx in New York City. I love to teach and craft with my students and granddaughters. Cards, scrapbooking and small building projects are my hobbies. During the summer of 2020 and in the midst of the pandemic, I discovered paper circuits and Chibitronics through Infosys Foundation USA’s Pathfinders Institute, and I was in heaven! Now, I stamp, die cut, make amazing light up crafts and explore coding with Arduino.

Why did you go into teaching?
I went into teaching by accident. I was studying to be a psychologist and while in college, I minored in Education. I applied to be a paraprofessional to make ends meet and discovered that I loved teaching. I love teaching students and I love learning from them. Teaching is so rewarding. It does not matter how big or small the educational concept is. It is always a joy when you see the light bulb go off in a student’s head when he/she “gets it.” I changed my career path and became a Special Education teacher. I never looked back.

Why is it important to teach your students computer science and maker education?
My students need to keep up with the changing world, and this is especially true of students with special needs. Engaging my students in maker education and exposing them to computer science will help them understand the many advantages that are within their reach. I want my students to understand that they’re no longer confined to their neighborhoods. They’re just a click, a build, a VR away from a great adventure in STEM.

How do you integrate computer science and making into your classroom?
This year I am co-teaching Conceptual Physics virtually. It’s a great way for special needs students to learn through hands on experience. I sent all my students a roller coaster kit to build. In the Spring, they will receive materials such as copper tape, LEDs, and Li batteries to build and engineer a mansion out of boxes that lights up. Learning paper circuits with Chibitronics opened up my world in STEM. I want to bring this world to my students.

This year’s theme for CS Ed Week is #CSforSocialJustice. What does that theme mean to you?
For me, #CSforSocialJustice means to promote, provide, educate, and create dialogue with students who are at a disadvantage at learning STEM. It is bringing STEM educators, professionals and laypeople together to learn about the impact technology provides for our students. It helps to provide an equal opportunity for Black, Hispanic and female students to explore the advantages that computer science and STEM offer.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My first experience with Chibitronics was courtesy of Infosys Foundation USA’s Pathfinders institute in July 2020. I am now exploring Arduino projects. Becoming familiar with CS has really opened up new possibilities for me. Now imagine what it will do for students who are still exploring all the possibilities the world has to offer.

CSEd Week Teacher Spotlight: Holly Manswell