Texas High School Educator Named Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year

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Mark Ahrens, a Computer Science and Robotics teacher at Texas High School, has been selected among thousands of eligible teachers as a 2021 Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award recipient. Mark Ahrens will receive a prize package valued at more than $30,000, which includes $25,000 to expand computer science and/or robotics education at his and $5,000 teacher cash award.  

Mark Ahrens learned of the honor when his colleagues surprised them with an Amazon box filled with Amazon Future Engineer swag.

“I was completely caught off guard when my principal asked me to come to the front to ‘open a package she received.’ I thought it was a little odd to do this during the end-of-year campus meeting. Once I opened and read the material, I wasn’t sure what to think. This award meant that all the hard work I have put in had reaped a large (and unexpected) benefit. I’m truly honored to have been selected for this award and I know it will mean a lot the students and campus. I know this award will also help me get closer to achieving goals I have set for future student growth and their employment using technology.”

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 Mr Ahrens began his career in education 7 years ago. He took over as the Computer Science teacher at Texas High School that started with only two sections of CS I. He worked to grow the program from these two introductory sections to 8 classes that include CS I, CS II, CS III, Computer Science Principles, and the upcoming DC-Python course starting in the 2021-2022 academic year. He has also been an active mentor to the campus robotics competition team during his tenure. He works to grow student skills in automation and programming through engaging and highly interactive projects throughout the year as well as summer camps. His current goal to help develop student skills and knowledge to support and expand the regional technology industry, using CTE-based activities, that companies are looking to employ. He currently holds a bachelor’s in computer science (2013) and recently completed his Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, emphasis in CS, in May 2021.

“It has been an especially difficult year for teachers so we are excited to recognize their hard work and commitment to their students’ success,” said Victor Reinoso, Global Director, Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon in the Community. “The Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award recipients work diligently to help students in underserved and underrepresented communities build life-changing skills to propel their futures in computer science. We celebrate their tireless efforts to increase access to technology and computer literacy in their classrooms and beyond.”

Mark Ahrens and students

Mark Ahrens is one of ten teachers across the country who received the Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award. Recipients were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within computer science education, a recommendation from a school administrator and compelling, personal anecdotes about their school and students. Scholarship America reviewed applicants and selected the award recipients.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the market for computer science professionals will grow 11% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations and, as of May 2020, the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $91,250, which is more than twice the median annual wage for all occupations. Computer science is the fastest-growing profession within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field, but only 8% of STEM graduates earn a computer science degree, with a small percentage from underrepresented communities. Students from underserved and underrepresented communities are 8 to 10 times more likely to pursue college degrees in computer science if they have taken AP computer science in high school. 

Amazon Future Engineer is a childhood-to-career computer science education program intended to inspire and educate millions of students globally, including hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. each year. Students explore computer science through school curriculum and project based learning using code to make music, program robots, and solve problems. Amazon Future Engineer also awards 100 students each year with four-year, $40,000 scholarships and paid internships at Amazon, and celebrates teachers with professional development and $25,000 Teacher of the Year Awards. Amazon Future Engineer is part of Amazon’s commitment to STEM and computer science education. This year, Amazon has a goal to reach 1.6 million students from underrepresented communities globally through Amazon Future Engineer with real-world-inspired virtual and hands-on computer science project learning. The program is currently available in the U.S., UK, France, and Canada.

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