ASMS Computer Science Instructor Named Cyber Security Teacher of the Year

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Gray with the first and second place trophies her students received at a computer science competition. *Photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contributed by Alabama School of Mathematics and Science

Deborah Gray, computer science instructor at the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS) was recognized as Teach Cyber’s 2020 Cyber Security Teacher of the Year with the “Pathways to Cybersecurity” Award. This award highlights her dedication to teaching cybersecurity, facilitating outside the classroom opportunities and coaching competitions. According to Teach Cyber, “This award recognizes teachers who (in addition to teaching a cybersecurity class) developed cybersecurity programs, host clubs and/or coach competitions. Their efforts have given students multiple means to enter or advance along a cybersecurity path.”

Gray received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Southern California and an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University while working for a high-tech company, Hewlett Packard, in the San Francisco Bay area. Before ASMS, she taught at different international schools and in Baldwin County. Her professional interests include cybersecurity, underwater robotics and data science. As a computer science instructor, she promotes student engagement and project-based learning. Her approach encourages students to participate in computer science competitions and clubs that she sponsors.

When asked why cybersecurity is important to her,  Gray describes, “Cybersecurity is a critical, timely topic that crosscuts all aspects of our lives. It sparks student interest and deep dives into a wide range of CS topics from Linux to networking to cryptography to cyber ethics. Students have fun solving problems and collaborating in competitions. It opens opportunities for them at universities and in their careers.”

At ASMS, Gray has developed new courses for the school including Computer Security Fundamentals and Cyber Ethics. She sponsors the ASMS Cyber Security Club and coaches students in competitions which combine their individual strengths to work together. For example, in CyberPatriots competitions, students fix vulnerabilities in operating systems and secure a network. In Capture the Flag (CTF) events, students solve challenges of various skill levels and points by finding concealed messages, decrypting communications, reverse engineering code, programming and more.  Gray says there is something of interest for everyone, and many of these activities help students explore a variety of skills and introduces them to situations they may encounter in a CS field.

 “Cyber security has quickly become one of the most prominent fields in our world today, and Gray is equipping our students with the experiences they need to be at the forefront. In addition to computer science skills,  Gray’s approach to teaching and learning fosters curiosity, confidence and collaboration among our students. She is both an asset to the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science and the field of computer science education,” said ASMS School President Dr. John Hoyle.

Know a high school student interested in computer science and cybersecurity? Current 9th and 10th graders in Alabama can apply now to ASMS for the 2021-2022 school year. Learn more at asms.net/admissions.

About ASMS

The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science is the state’s only fully public and residential high school for sophomores, juniors and seniors seeking advanced studies in math, science, computer science and the humanities. ASMS is a research-focused learning community committed to innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration and diversity with an aim to empower motivated Alabama students to improve their community, state and nation. Tuition, room and board are free. Learn more at www.asms.net.

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