When high-school computer science teacher Harold Brown walked through the doors of KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy (NCA), his colleagues surprised him with an Amazon box filled with Amazon swag. His school community had reason to celebrate — Mr. Brown is one of ten teachers across the country who received the Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award. Recipients were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within computer science education, a recommendation from a school administrator and compelling, personal anecdotes about their school and students. Scholarship America, a nonprofit partner that assists corporations and organizations with scholarship allocations, reviewed applicants and selected the award recipients based on their highest quality criteria.
“It has been an especially difficult year for teachers so we are excited to recognize their hard work and commitment to their students’ success,” said Victor Reinoso, Global Director, Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon in the Community. “The Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award recipients work diligently to help students in underserved and underrepresented communities build life-changing skills to propel their futures in computer science. We celebrate their tireless efforts to increase access to technology and computer literacy in their classrooms and beyond.”
Mr. Brown has been teaching for 12 years, nine of which he has spent at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy. He received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and began teaching for Teach For America in rural Arkansas, eventually serving as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development. In 2012, Mr. Brown moved back to New Jersey and began teaching at NCA to give back to students in his hometown.
“I became an educator to give students better opportunities than were present when I was in high school. I became an educator to push the boundaries of what students who look like me and come from where I’m from ever thought possible,” noted Mr. Brown. “Receiving this honor is certainly a highlight of my professional career.”
After a year of uncertainty, the award comes as a welcome surprise for Mr. Brown and the NCA community. As chair of the Department of the Creative arts, Innovation, Technology & Engineering (CITE) at NCA, Mr. Brown plans to direct funds towards critical STEM programs. The school will allocate $25,000 from the award to support STEM education for Newark students, including building out a maker space for robotics and improving their cybersecurity and physical computing resources.
Mr. Brown and NCA’s commitment to STEM education is driven by a growing need for professionals in the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the market for computer science professionals will grow 11% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations and, as of May 2020, the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $91,250, which is more than twice the median annual wage for all occupations. Mr. Brown’s hard work extends far beyond the walls of NCA, as his dedication encourages thoughtful collaboration between students to solve real world problems and increase diversity in the STEM field.