Mid-Pacific teacher Danelle Landgraf says coding is like a dance, filled with layers of steps.
Name: Danelle Landgraf
Job: Technology and Engineering Head, and Computer Science Teacher, Mid-Pacific Institute
Beginnings: Landgraf says she always had her eyes glued to a computer screen when she was young – and tinkered with computers and code whenever she could.
She first studied finance in college and worked in the field, while also exploring IT. Her husband, who was working in corporate IT, convinced her to try working at a school and she’s been teaching ever since.
“I was giving back and not just working,” she says.
Fixing Flaws: Landgraf helps guide Mid-Pac’s CyberOwls, a regional and national award-winning club focused on cyber security and other digital challenges.
The students try to find flaws in digital systems and figure out how to fix them. They learn how to code algorithms, break through firewalls, decipher text and more.
Landgraf jokes that being locked out and finding a way in is something that she’s familiar with. “Growing up, (going to) my grandma’s house, I always forgot my keys so I couldn’t get in. But I always knew which windows were easy enough to jiggle through and get in the house.”
Best Times: She teaches the fundamentals of computer technology to different grade levels.
“The moment that they get it, they can start writing it down really fast and doing it,” she says. “That is my favorite moment as a teacher.”
E-Sports: Aside from teaching and guiding the CyberOwls, Landgraf coaches Mid-Pacific’s Esports team. She says the team builds camaraderie and gives its 12 members, most of whom aren’t typical school athletes, a sportslike experience.
Less Stress: The after-school clubs allow students to explore areas and try new things without the pressure of being graded, she says.
“It gives confidence to a lot of kids who are normally afraid to do things because they don’t want to fail. But when it’s a club, there’s less pressure.”
Girl Power: Landgraf loves the interest shown by all her students, but she’s thrilled that more girls are studying computer science. Her advanced computer science class, which was once populated mostly by boys, now has more girls than boys.
“It’s changing, and I think having a female computer science teacher helps in a lot of ways.”
What’s New: Mid-Pacific is adding a game studio this year for students to create their own video games, which Landgraf will also advise.
Coding is Dance: Landgraf compares computer science to the movements and choreography of dance. She says the layers of steps learned in dance are just like the steps taken to create a computer program.
Rewarding: Computer science should be rewarding, not intimidating, she says. She wants young people to know that the computational thinking used in computer science can be applied to many aspects of life.