Cognizant and Teach For America Announce Winners of Annual Innovation in Computer Science Education Awards
December 4, 2023
December 4, 2023 — Today Cognizant and Teach For America have announced the winners of the third annual Cognizant Innovation in Computer Science Education Awards. These awards, granted at the school level and the broader systems level, recognize outstanding educators and individuals advocating for and expanding access to PK-12 computer science education across the United States. Though every application was exceptional, the 2023 winners highlighted below have showcased extraordinary leadership by inspiring and creating opportunities to help students grow.
- Yanepsi Alvarado, Boston, Mass. — Computer Science, Spanish Teacher, and World Language Department Lead, Josiah Quincy Upper School, Boston Public Schools
- Mira Denton, White Pine, Tenn. — Computer Science Master Teacher (grades 6-8) and Career Coach, Jefferson County Schools
- Naomi Arroyo, Philadelphia, Pa. — Co Founder & Managing Partner, Floreo Labs
- Dominick Sanders, Columbia, S.C. — Chief Product & Program Officer, Code Nation
"We could not be more proud to honor vital community leaders like Yanepsi, Mira, Naomi, and Dominick," said Tobi Young, Senior Vice President of Legal, Regulatory, and Corporate Affairs at Cognizant. "Today's evolving work landscape demands a proactive approach to education: expanding the pool of quality STEM teachers that represent the communities they work in, creating early exposure to sciences, and bridging resource gaps is pivotal, especially as a teacher shortage persists across the country and AI changes workplace talent demands. These talented individuals are working to ensure that every child has access to transformative STEM education, breaking barriers and shaping tomorrow's skilled workforce."
All students should have access to obtain an excellent education, but still, thousands of children face disparate opportunities. Data shows that low-income students are far less likely to enter STEM professions, often because they lack resources. In fact, 12 million students in rural and low-income areas have poor or no connection to the internet at home. For a student interested in computer science, for example, this lack of access could be a nonstarter to a career they otherwise would have excelled in. Every child deserves an excellent and equitable education and a life filled with the biggest and brightest possibilities. And, everyone, from lawmakers to communities to businesses, has a role in ensuring this.
"We have a responsibility to ensure that today's students are equipped to have agency, knowledge, and skills to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. Supporting and developing great computer science educators like Yanepsi, Mira, Naomi, and Dominick is foundational in that effort," said Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach For America. "As young people yearn for a relevant, engaging, and rigorous education computer science learning must be readily available to all PK-12 students. Any student interested in computer science, should have the opportunity and preparation to excel at it. If lots more students are prepared to innovate and create within their communities, country, and world, all of us live in a better society."
Cognizant and Teach For America also extend congratulations to runners-up Donald Saint-Germain, computer science teacher at University Heights High School in New York, and Michael Gale Rennard, gifted and advanced learning coordinator and teacher at Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, for their exemplary work in their communities.
Meet the Award Winners
School-based award winners
“Computer programs, in general, are literal. Students certainly practice skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and attention to detail in any class, but these skills are a natural component of my computer science classroom, as students build things, test out possibilities, and participate in trial and error challenges."
“We must make our work relevant to a future that doesn't exist yet—that is a difficult reality to conceptualize. Reach out to others, make a team, and tackle the issue of systemic change together. Technology is the bridge that creates 'place'' and community anywhere that students, teachers, or stakeholders choose. The person in front of the screen creates meaning and purpose in its application.”
System-level based award winners
“As someone with intersectional marginalized identities (Afro-Latina, first generation, and disabled) who has navigated a non-traditional pathway into the computer science field, I know firsthand the importance of centering diversity, equity, and inclusion in efforts to expand computer science pathways.”
“Computer science fosters adaptability. Technology evolves rapidly, and students who are well-versed in computer science are not merely consumers of technology but active contributors to its advancement. This cultivates an adaptable mindset, preparing students to embrace change and stay relevant in a dynamic job market.”
About Teach For America
Teach For America works in partnership with 300 urban and rural communities across the country to expand educational opportunity for children. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding leaders who make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, Teach For America is a force of nearly 70,000 alumni and corps members working in more than 9,000 schools nationwide in pursuit of profound systemic change. From classrooms to districts to state houses across America, they are reimagining education to realize the day when every child has an equal opportunity to learn, lead, thrive, and co-create a future filled with possibility. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.