#ThankATeacherPBC: Olympic Heights May be the Destination for Computer Science

November 2017

Before Nimmi Arunachalam began her second career as a teacher at Olympic Heights Community High School, she worked as a business analyst for a software company in India, translating complex programming into something the average client could digest.

Now she shares the lessons she learned in her first career with a new generation of computer engineers and programmers at Olympic Heights, and her work in the classroom has earned her national recognition.

Last month, Arunachalam was recognized as the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Teacher of the Year for computer science. Implemented in more than 10,500 schools nationwide, Olympic Heights adopted the real world, applied learning PLTW curriculum which is now affiliated with College Board, to offer high stakes Advanced Placement courses in both engineering and computer science.

“We started with Project Lead the Way for our engineering program, and four years ago integrated the computer science courses,” Arunachalam said.

And the demand has been strong. The hands-on, project-based learning curriculum has more than 300 students currently enrolled in one of the five classes for either engineering or computer science. Both computer science classes are at the Advanced Placement (AP) level, rigorous, college-level classes in a variety of subjects that give students an opportunity to gain the skills and experience colleges recognize.

“Four years ago we saw this opportunity. The training through PLTW was intense, made up of a two week training at the University of South Carolina for each of the courses. These were full day boot camps that went into late nights,” Arunachalam said.

The success found at Olympic Heights has been certainly worth those late nights. Last years computer science AP exam results earned Arunachalam an 82 percent pass rate, and symbolized the high performance culture found on the Boca Raton campus.

This October, nearly 2,000 people were drawn to Orlando to see more than 250 interactive workshops, dozens of student led presentations, and an award ceremony featuring PLTW President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Vince Bertram to reveal the 2017 recipients. Arunachalam was recognized above 37,000 teachers who represent all 50 states.  

“These outstanding educators are leaders in their classrooms and across the PLTW network, and are inspiring the next generation of innovators,” Bertram said.

As the Choice application window opened November 1, there is still time for schools to make an argument for their programs and academies. Trophies and a recognized Teacher of the Year certainly help make that argument a little easier now for one Boca Raton high school.  

To see the opportunities available at Olympic Heights, as well as the other 116 campuses with Choice programs and academies, browse the complete 2018-2019 Choice and Career Options booklet.

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