Success in learning and teaching

Wendy Hankes has taught high school classes for 24 years and is an expert at picking up new things fast. But when the principal of Big Spring High School in Pennsylvania asked her to teach a brand new Intro to Java course the next school year, even Ms. Hankes was overwhelmed.

“I was going to be teaching Java and I did not know anything about Java,” Hankes remembers. With only a few months at her disposal, Hankes rushed to sign up for a popular online Java course, but it was not helpful. “I did not get much out of it,” Hankes says.

Then Hankes heard about zyBooks from a fellow instructor. She sat down with the Programming in Java zyBook and, in the span of one summer, taught herself how to program in Java well enough so that she could teach it.

With the school year rapidly approaching, Big Spring administrators once again approached Hankes regarding the Java course. “I told them I’d be glad to teach it as long as I could use the zyBook,” Hankes recalls. “When I sat down with the zyBook, I got it!”

Students were hesitant about the zyBook at the beginning, especially as most had no programming background, and the zyBook, by design, demands more interaction than a static textbook. But within a couple of hours, students were writing working programs in Java.

“They were thrilled,” Hankes recounts. “They come in now during homeroom to work on coding with their zyBooks.”

As a teacher, Hankes’ favorite zyBook feature is the Instructor Dashboard: “It’s a very handy tool to assess students at risk. When I saw kids were behind based on participation data, I would bring them in for extra one-on-one time with me.”

Hankes anticipates the Java course to continue to grow and for the school to offer more and more programming classes in the near future. “What we’d like to see is more reaching out to kids who would not normally see themselves in STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] fields,” she says. “There is so much potential there.”