Props to Balboa Mock Trial Team
The Balboa Mock Trial team won the City championship. It was a thrilling competition and they were articulate, poised, and prepared. It was a truly inspiring event. The next stop for them is the State championship in Riverside.
Game Academy in the News!
See ABC News Clip - Click here
The second-period students in Room 124 at Balboa High School are playing Pong as their teacher, wearing a homemade Pac-Man fabric skirt and red-glitter Converse sneakers, offers advice.
A few students have iPods plugged into their ears as they try to bounce the ball between two digital paddles.
They’re not goofing off. They’re in a college-prep computer science class, part of the school’s Game Design Academy and one that counts toward admission requirements for the UC and Cal State systems.
The course puts San Francisco at the forefront of a national trend to incorporate computer science into public schools — and not just as an after-school program or elective. It’s a shift in thinking: Computers aren’t just learning tools, they’re a bona fide course of study — and one with hot job prospects.
In California, there are 78,000 open jobs for computer scientists, and 4,800 computer science college graduates this year, said Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit spearheading the computer science education effort in large urban districts across the country...
Counting it as math
This week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation allowing computer science to count as a math graduation requirement rather than just an elective, joining 24 other states with similar laws.
At Balboa High School, the Game Design Academy still looks a little like a typical computer lab with hard drives and screens clumped together on tables, a jumble of old-school Ethernet cables and power cords on the floor below and a teacher that hurries from screen to screen helping students.
But it’s not typical and it’s not old.
For starters, the computers, all told, cost $55,000 and the teacher, Angie Hoffman, is a former six-figure digital game designer with Sims and Farmville credits on her resume and a penchant for Pokemon, Batman and Wonder Woman.
Help from Zynga
San Francisco is partnering with Zynga to pilot the game design course at Balboa and Thurgood Marshall high schools this year. The digital game company bought half of the computers and is paying Hoffman’s salary. It’s also helping transform the classrooms to look more like a tech company setting than a school computer lab — although the coat of colorful paint and bean bag chairs are pending.
Hoffman, however, isn’t waiting for new furniture to bring a Silicon Valley sensibility to San Francisco’s public schools.
In a seven-minute lecture this week on simplification and basic coding functions, she included references to Pokemon’s Pikachu, Batman’s bat signal, Albert Einstein, how she potty-trained her dog and the 1980s TV show “Fraggle Rock.”
Then she summed up before setting her students loose to create their own version of Pong, the 1970s arcade game.
“Be a lazy programmer,” Hoffman told the students, encouraging them to keep code simple. “Be concise. We want short code that everyone can understand.”
At one table, junior Nicole Rivera worked on her game. The Pong ball was a frowning pink Hello Kitty image. The game wasn’t working quite right. Hello Kitty didn’t want to bounce back and forth on the paddles and wandered around the middle of the screen in between shots.
“I’m still working on it,” Nicole said, who said she was new to coding, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. “I play with the code and see what happens — test and fail.”
The course was the most popular elective offered at Balboa this year, with a near even mix of boys and girls signing up for it.
But creating such computer science courses isn’t easy or inexpensive. Most schools have to start from scratch, buying new computers, upgrading infrastructure and finding money to pay for a teacher. Zynga.org, the nonprofit arm of the game company, was financially critical to San Francisco’s effort.
“We've rolled up our sleeves with them,” said Ken Weber, executive director of Zynga.org. “We're in this hotbed of innovation in education. There’s a lot of capital. But that isn't the case with the public schools.”
Even with enough money, finding teachers is a challenge, given the need to find someone who has the requirements for a preliminary teaching credential and real-world experience and who would take a significant pay cut from the tech world.
'Looking for a unicorn’
“We thought we might be looking for a unicorn,” Weber said.
Hoffman, for example, was making a six-figure salary as a game designer. But she was ready for a change.
“I got to have the dream job I always wanted,” she said of her previous career. “I wanted to give kids the chance I had.”
And so she’s preparing her students for that dream job by encouraging them to guess and take chances: a critical part of real-world coding.
“I tell them to fail more, fail harder,” she said. “They’re so obsessed with making things perfect. I tell them to make things ugly.”
Hoffman, 39, admits the transition from high-tech to public school teacher has been “weird.” She was struck by the classroom telephones that still had cords and were attached to the wall.
She traded in her five-bedroom ocean view house in Pacifica for an ocean-view studio and her six-figure salary for five digits.
“But to quantify that,” she said, “I’m three times happier.”
|Balboa High teacher Eric Wilcox Receives Outstanding Teacher Award|
June 18, 2014 (San Francisco)- Balboa High School English Teacher Eric Wilcox has received one of the five 2014 Carlston Family Foundation Outstanding Teachers of America Awards.
Carlston Family Foundation honorees are nominated by former students who are currently enrolled in or have graduated from a four year college or university. Students personally describe the reasons for the nomination, identifying characteristics of the teachers that make them effective, specific teaching techniques that increase interest and motivation of students, and the exact life changing impact of the teacher on his or her life.
Wilcox, who has been teaching English at Balboa High for 16 years, says the very first thing he does each school year is to set the tone in his classroom. "I try to meet every student where they are (academically, emotionally), and we begin to build a rapport." From that, a sense of community builds among the students as well.
Wilcox, who believes that literature provides the most powerful forum in the curriculum for critical thinking, also sets high expectations for each student and of himself each day.
"After all, how can I expect their best effort if I am not giving them mine?"
Each teacher selected will receive a $15,000 cash award, and a grant of $5,000 for their school.
This year, the Foundation received more than a hundred nominations from throughout California. The evaluation process is extensive and involves interviews with many students, school principals, colleagues and finally the teachers who are nominated.
Wilcox joins 56 former winners and will become a formal member of the Carlston Family Foundation Board of Advisors and will participate in the annual educational symposium that focuses on addressing major issues facing education in California. This advisory group creates strategies for policy change in California, focuses on strategies for improving instruction in California high school classrooms and in California teacher preparation programs.
|View Press Release at www.sfusd.edu|
Mayor Honors Michael Ferraro as Teacher Of the Year!
Click here to read the details!
Congratulations to the Balboa Urban Debate Team for an incredible season of growth!
Balboa's Debate Team wrapped up their season Saturday May 2nd at the League Championships held at Oakland High School. The amazingly dedicated team was at Balboa at 6:30 am that morning and we made it home by 8:30 pm at night after a long and incredible day of debating. The team had so much growth this season with five of our team members advancing from JV to Varsity debate, and in Devon's case from Rookie to Varsity (wow!). This is a huge change that requires bravery, confidence, and commitment, all of which are strong qualities in our teammates Claudia Wu, Andy Ruan, Devon Faraci, Brose Johnstone, and Justin Chau. Congratulate them on their amazing and inspiring work this year! Our new team members made huge strides of advancement as well, catching the eye of BAUDL employees as well as the respect from coaches and debaters from all over the Bay Area. Shelly Wu, Lillian Tinsley, Cherry Than, and Iris Tinsley all moved quickly from Rookie to Novice to JV over the course of the year, with the two teams landing in the top 10 debaters in the JV division. Congratulate them on their amazing accomplishment! Our Novice team continues to commit themselves to their improvement, some of them joining late in the year with others having multiple academic and personal commitments that have spread them thin. A big shout out to Becky Guan and Hunter Deckelman for performing so amazingly at the League Championships, winning two of their four debates and placing in the top 10 debaters of the Novice division. We would also like to thank all who supported us throughout the entire school year including Mr. Wilcox for offering his room and his great advice, Mr. Nick Kafkas and the Alumni members for donating gorgeous t-shirts and sending emails of support, Ms. Molly Lazarus and the After School Program for offering the library conference room after school on Tuesdays 1st semester, Yosel Segundo who helped hang posters and deliver messages, Ms. Susan Ritter for helping with the Japanese International Debate Team's visit, and all the teachers and staff who encouraged and motivated the crew to do and be their best, thank you!