Our Teacher of the Week caught our eye in a news feature on the amazing work that she's doing for The Wilson School. We were lucky enough to catch up with Melika Panneri and learn more about how she took coding from a 6th grade capstone project and built a technology program that prepares younger students for complex projects in later grades.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love that every day is a new day and there's always something new to learn. Kids say what they think and that’s refreshing. I love seeing kids figure things out on their own and apply it to life.
Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?
Coding is about challenges and problems and asks for kids to deal with it- it’s not just math and science. Kids grow their tolerance for frustration when they hit a wall and can’t figure something out. Jobs will eventually need a background in computer science, whether you’re a programmer or not, and exposing kids to coding prepares them for that.
What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding at your school?
I started Think Camp this summer and I ran a session on creative coding. I have never seen kids that excited in my life. We used a variety of coding options and tools, but the entire time kids were excited beyond anything I've ever seen. I think if they could have exploded, they would have!
What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?
Getting other teachers to see the value in it is always challenging and talking about it is not enough. Once people see students learning it and watch me teach they start to understand and want to be a part of it. I have an ELA teacher who works with me to integrate ELA with coding. We did a coding project with 5th graders on explaining idioms to the world. An example was the idiom, “you crack me up." A student created this scence, with an egg cracking and laughing, and he coded every bit himself. It's a challenge showing that coding is not just science or math.
What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?
I'd like to get into more complicated possibilities for 5th and 6th graders. I learn a little bit more every year, and if I keep l learning I'll be able to help kids dive deeper. I started them in 2nd grade and now they’re coming in with projects they’ve made over the weekend, things they have built over the summer. They want more and I want to be able to teach them and learn from them.
We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?
I’ve learned to get a little better at saying no when I’ve hit my limits.
What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?
To have the opportunity to have that crazy joyful moment where they’ve figured out what works best for them to learn. Learning how to learn, and being excited about learning.
Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching?
I love to travel when we have the time. My final student teaching was in Australia, and that was incredible. We like to go to New York City and San Francisco when we can. I also love graphic design and real estate.
Thank you, Melika, for sharing your experiences and perspective with us!
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