In Miki Cacace’s yearlong coding class at Ewa Makai Middle School in Oahu’s Ewa Beach, students learn by doing rather than watching. They create games and apps, wire their own micro:bits and troubleshoot device issues, building foundational skills they will need for 21st century careers. Cacace, a math teacher, volunteered to expand her curriculum with the coding class. Students had already chosen their electives, but Cacace promoted the new class during lunchtime, selling it as a fun and exciting alternative. Students signed up in droves, knowing that whatever Cacace was teaching, they were in good hands. She developed the curriculum with a combination of three days of summer training, resources from Project Lead the Way and Code.org, and her trusted cache of instructional strategies. Cacace’s students invite friends to try out their apps, offer constructive suggestions and vote for their favorites. Cacace showcases the group’s work at Coding Night, where parents and siblings check out their students’ creations.
In Cacace’s class, students build confidence and practice problem-solving, decision-making and collaboration skills. During field trips to the Microsoft and Apple stores, students talk to professionals about their STEM backgrounds. Many of Cacace’s students start the year unsure of how their studies connect to their future lives and careers; Cacace bridges that gap. Building a pipeline of students who excel in computer science is a priority: Cacace is working with her peers at the district’s elementary and high schools to create a K-12 computer science program, and is now running an Advanced Coding class this year due to high demand from her students who wanted a second year of coding. She mentors new teachers and is an active member of CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association).
With her upbeat attitude and focus on creating positive relationships, Cacace helps students who struggle to persevere, while pushing those who generally succeed to go above and beyond their capabilities. A member of the school’s social-emotional learning (SEL) leadership team, she started a habit of eating lunch with students who were sitting alone and encouraged her colleagues to follow her lead. To better understand the way students experience their school, Cacace shadowed a student for an entire day and challenged SEL committee members to do the same. She developed an SEL website with lessons on empathy and creating a caring culture for her peers to use during their advisory classes. Cacace is unafraid to share her personal challenges if she thinks it will help students believe they can overcome their own hurdles.
Cacace earned a bachelor’s degree in 2007 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a master’s in elementary education in 2010 from the University of Phoenix.
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