If you want to pursue a career in the 21st century, computer skills are a must. Whether we’re making advances in public policy to eradicate racism or developing the resources required to establish life on Mars, everything is moved forward by computers. If you want to create, innovate and positively impact the world, computer programming is an essential skill to learn.
In a fifth-grade class that taught chess, computer literacy and slot cars, Pat Yongpradit (M.Ed. ‘01) discovered his love for computer science – a love that would unknowingly guide his future career path and impact national education policy.
“It was the best class I had taken and taught me so much. It taught me about strategy, thinking ahead, and creating technology,” Yongpradit stated.
Born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, Yongpradit grew up in an era when computer science was not a popular career choice. As a child, his parents had decided that he would become a doctor or an engineer, but once Yongpradit completed his undergraduate studies, his perfectly planned future took a turn. He quickly realized that he wanted to become an educator and decided to apply and ultimately enroll into the University of Maryland College of Education’s MCERT program.
Yongpradit joined the Montgomery County Public School system in 2001. Although he initially began his teaching career in earth science, he transitioned to computer science and taught that subject for the remainder of his tenure with MCPS.
In partnership with Springbrook high school, Yongpradit helped increased the diversity of students taking the computer science class and ignited and increased students’ passion for computer science. Prior to Yongpradit taking over the class, the class was primarily white and Asian boys. After consulting with Jan Plane of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, and the creator of the UMD Computer Science Club for Women, Pat created an all-female technology club at the school. Once Yongpradit created the club, the number of women taking computer science tripled. He helped change the perception of computer science and the class began to reflect the diverse population of the school’s racial and socioeconomic makeup.In 2010, Yongpradit won the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teacher Awards at the sixth annual Worldwide Innovative Education Forum.
In 2013, code.org was a small project by developed by a recent Microsoft retiree who was looking for ways to give back to society. Yongpradit was intrigued and volunteered to be consultant, but the CEO interpreted his interest as a job opportunity. Today, Yongpradit works on state, national and international policy.
“Pat is a force of nature in the computer science education space. From his position as Chief Academic Officer at Code.org, he has his hands on the reigns of one of the largest and most influential organizations in K-12 computer science,” Said David Weintrop, assistant professor at the College of Education.
“Pat’s passion and commitment to the field can be seen across all of the initiatives he has been a part of, ranging from writing national frameworks, advocating for computer science education legislation, to consulting with ministries of education and advising on international computing education initiatives. Pat is a tremendous resource for computer science education and the state of computer science in K-12 in this country is much stronger as a result of his very active participation.”
Yongpradit believes that everyone should become more than computer efficient, he believes that everyone should strive to become creators and innovators.
“For students that don’t take computer science, they miss out on significant job opportunities and job/salary growth. Eleven percent of the entire population at UMD are computer science-related majors,” Yongpradit said.
“We live in a digital world, and it’s important that citizens of this world know how to create rather than be passive consumers. In this environment, computer science is connected to everything we do. Creation becomes infinite when you learn computer science skills.”
From national policy to classroom teaching, Pat Yongpradit is influencing the entire system and amplifying the importance of computer science as a staple in K-12 education.