Making a difference with Oracle Academy
Richmond, Virginia, Chesterfield Career and Technical Center (CTC) teacher Carol Guerin knows a lot about life outside the classroom: before becoming a teacher, she worked as a paralegal at a medical malpractice firm. With 17 years of teaching experience now under her belt, Guerin knows the value of showing students how what they are learning will apply in the real world.
It’s one of the reasons she chooses to teach using Oracle Academy curriculum as part of the CTC Information Technology career path: built around industry standard technologies and languages, like SQL and Java, Oracle Academy courses support an authentic computing experience and the development of skills that can underpin careers.
“Kids need coursework and practice, but they also need the hands-on experience of being in an environment where computer science is being used in everyday life,” Guerin says.
To support this approach, Guerin’s second-year Oracle Academy students are presented opportunities to employ their computing skills in part-time internships with organizations requiring computer scientists. And, each year, a couple of Guerin’s rising seniors are employed by the Chesterfield County Public School System in Virginia to gain workplace experience in database administration, programming and web development.
Moving between classroom and workplace provides students opportunities to see why what they are learning at school matters in the “real world” and to learn how to apply academic knowledge and skills in new, different, and sometimes complex situations.
Learning to apply existing knowledge to new situations is something Guerin knows well. When working as a paralegal prior to beginning her teaching career, Guerin’s own computer science skills were limited.
“I didn’t have any programming experience, but I was used to handling massive amounts of information and organizing it logically for retrieval at short notice,” she says.
To learn to teach Oracle Academy courses, Guerin traded her color-coded legal folders and index cards for database code. She took 180 hours of free Oracle Academy online training and passed exams, earning a certificate of completion. She now teaches Oracle Academy’s Database Foundations to first year students and both Database Design and Programming with SQL and Programming with PL/SQL to second year students.
When it comes to recruiting for her own courses, Guerin likes to tell prospective students that they don’t need a background in computer science, because Oracle Academy teaches all the basics. She knows this because she made the same journey herself.
“Once you’ve learned the logic – procedures, functions, packages, triggers – it translates to all other programming languages. SQL is a great jumping off point for Java, C++, C#, Python, and other languages,” she says.
Keeping the job market in mind, Guerin also makes sure that her students know how to promote themselves and their skills. “Programming knowledge is one thing, but they also need to know how to prepare for interviews, write résumés, and verbally communicate,” she says.
This sensitivity to the needs of employers pays off for Guerin’s students. Kara Lucord, a former honors student at CTC, was so quick to learn computing that Guerin helped to arrange part-time internships for her during two years of the program. Lucord spent her junior year shadowing database administrators in the public school system. The following year, she worked at a local power company writing SQL statements for management reporting. Today, she has a full-time job as a data scientist with Oracle in Denver.
“The most important thing we teach students is how to work,” says Guerin. “There’s huge demand for good programmers.”
When one is a teacher, every year brings new students, and every day brings new challenges and rewards. For the foreseeable future, Guerin plans to keep teaching computer science as well as legal systems administration courses.
She says, “I’ve never enjoyed myself more than with Oracle Academy; for those classes I can’t wait to get to work.”