Meet Dr. Steve Grabania
You taught chemistry at the college level for five years. Why the switch to secondary education?
I began looking for high school positions because in my experience, higher ed placed too much emphasis on faculty research and grant writing, and too little on good pedagogy and the quality of instruction given to students. AIS, on the other hand, cares about its students — this is the right place for me.
How did you get interested in computer science?
I attended the G.W. Carver High School of Engineering and Science, where computer science was a major subject required every year. It was there that I learned programming — but it wasn't until my Ph.D. program, when I wrote software that generated models of crystal and molecular systems for my research group, that my passion was ignited.
Despite that experience, I didn't code again until 2009. I put together a treasure hunt for our ninth graders, and to make it work, I needed to write a program for students to use. It was that project that got me back into programming. I proposed that I start teaching Python programming at AIS, and that grew into the current computer science curriculum we have.
For students who don't plan to major in computer science, what are the benefits of learning to code?
Learning to code improves a student's problem-solving skills — it forces you to break big problems or tasks down into manageable pieces. Plus, coding an application helps you understand the problems you're solving at a level that often surpasses what you would otherwise achieve.
When I was in grad school, I had to learn a topic in physics called "space symmetry." I didn't get it at all. So, I forced myself to write a program that would apply space symmetry to real-world problems for my research group. By looking at the same content through the lens of coding, it all of a sudden became crystal clear.
What's something you're excited about right now?
The students in Computer Science III are making an amazing publications app for our student publications: Impulse, The Wick, Frenish, and Skirt. Meanwhile, students in Computer Science II are trying to conceive of an online hub for student life web content, including a customizable feed and a collection of web tools to support them. Students are coding for students!
What's something about you that's surprising?
Languages fascinate me. If I could go back in time, I'd probably major in linguistics.
Teaches: Upper School chemistry and computer science
Years at AIS: 18
Involvement at AIS: Throughout his tenure, Dr. G has also taught physics, earth science, and biology. He is also the co-creator of Agnes Irwin's Special Studies Program for ninth graders.
Fun Fact: Dr. G can recite the periodic table from memory.
In my computer science classes, a number of students have discovered their passion for coding. These students have gone on to major in computer science in college. It makes me happy to know that I was able to nurture this new dream.