A Career that Adds Up
by Carlen Blackstone ā€™79
Carlen Blackstone ā€™79
Illustration: David Sparshott

Forty years ago, I was a senior mathematics major in an enviable position. Just a few months before graduation, I already had five offers to work in the computer science industry (I had a concentration in that discipline because there was no major at the time). I chose to move to the Lehigh Valley and work for Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. as a programmer because of PP&Lā€™s commitment to the local community. Two years later, I left to pursue what I believed was my true calling of teaching in the public school system. In fall 1981, I began teaching math and computer science at Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pa.

I spent the next 35 years developing an extensive computer science program that began with the programming languages BASIC, FORTRAN and Pascal on Apple IIe microcomputers and evolved into teaching C++, Java, AppInventor, Alice, Scratch, Visual BASIC and, most recently, Python. Emmaus still offers the AP CS A course and a Data Structures course that I developed.

Mostly, I was a tireless advocate for all students to learn coding. I also taught the K-12 faculty about the benefits of teaching coding skills. My involvement in the American Computer Science League enabled my students to take trips all over the United States and Canada to compete internationally with the best private and magnet schools in the world. I also created a Computer Science Showcase community event before the annual Computer Science Education Week, and actively promoted computer science during that week throughout the school district.

Even as a retired teacher, I find ways to promote computer science, tutor students in mathematics and keep in touch with former students, many of whom went on to study at MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Virginia Tech, Rochester Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley, which led them to jobs with Google, Microsoft and other high-tech companies. This has kept me current in a field that continues to grow exponentially. Choosing to teach rather than work in industry, where I could have made much more money, enabled me to continually learn new things and make a difference in the future of our country through the lives of many students.