- Allegheny Intermediate Unit
AIU Teacher Named Champion of Computer Science Award Winner
Mon Valley Special Education Teacher’s Groundbreaking Work Recognized By National Award
It's not every day that one is nationally recognized for their work. But earlier this month, that is exactly what happened to Mon Valley School teacher Robert DeFillippo. Mr. DeFillippo has been named one of the 2018 Champions of Computer Science Award winners by Code.org and the Computer Science teachers Association.
His work in the special education classroom is, well, revolutionary. Rather than giving explicit instructions, Mr. DeFillippo uses the Code.org curriculum to allow his students to take the reigns of their learning. The student-guided process has unlocked the kids’ curiosity and desire to learn. It also instills soft skills and life skills that are crucial to a career after school. Mr. DeFillippo is proving that STEAM learning is for everyone and that cognitive disabilities in students are not a reason to shy away from modern teaching methods.
It all began when Mr. DeFillippo saw the benefits that traditional students were receiving and wanted his students to be afforded the same opportunities. After much research, he decided that Code.org offered a learning experience that would mesh well with his students. That was nearly three years ago and the program has taken off. Now, all of his students work on Chromebooks and Mr. DeFillippo is enrolled in Code.org’s year-long cohort for CS Discoveries.
As he was honored for an impressive individual accolade, Mr. DeFillippo couldn’t help but deflect praise to the team around him. He made sure to thank fellow Mon Valley teacher Beth Whitney, Mon Valley principal Stephanie Paolucci, AIU director of instructional innovation Tyler Samstag, AIU interim executive director Rosanne Javorsky and the entire support system at the AIU and Mon Valley.
“None of this is really possible without a system that allows teachers to have that vision and foster creativity in the classroom,” said Mr. DeFillippo. “It just really puts into perspective that when an organization is aligned in the right way and its mission and values are in line, it's amazing what can be done. It's not just at Mon Valley, it’s the entire AIU.”
His nominator wrote that, “Mr. DeFillippo is the standard for what a teacher should be: inspiring, creative, passionate, dedicated and driven. He wants the best for his students and works nights, weekends and summers to ensure they are given the education they deserve.”
After the success he has had at Mon Valley, Mr. DeFillippo is excited to share his experience and inspire others across the country.
“This can be effective for all special ed students in getting away from explicit instruction and towards a greater ecosystem across the nation,” Mr. DeFillippo said.
- Text by Eddie Phillipps