Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Brinder Soin, computer science and mathematics teacher, Piscataway Township High School, New Jersey.
Piscataway Township High School in New Jersey is a public high school catering to students in ninth through twelfth grades. More than 2,500 students are enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes covering the arts and sciences there, and about 33 percent of the students take one or more AP classes.
Brinder Soin, computer science and mathematics teacher, has been teaching the basics of the Java programming language since 2005. With a Master of Science in Computational Finance from Rutgers University, Soin worked for a while in Wall Street, but after a couple of years felt drawn towards teaching. Having designed and implemented a Java curriculum over the past 15 years, he has now embarked on a plan to encourage high school students to take Oracle professional certification exams.
Oracle Academy: When did you start teaching with the Oracle Academy Java curriculum?
Brinder Soin: While exploring Oracle Academy and in talking with Oracle representatives, I realized that our 9th through 12th grade computer science courses always have been closely aligned with Oracle Academy pathways. We start with programming with Alice and Greenfoot, and then transition to an introductory class, which follows almost an identical structure to the Oracle Academy Java Foundations course. This year, as we put into place an Oracle Certified Associate (OCA) strategy, we will be teaching the full Oracle Academy Java Fundamentals, Java Programming and Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning in Java curriculum.
Oracle Academy: What was the motivator for getting your students to become Oracle certified?
Brinder Soin: Over the past few years, we had been looking into extending our computer science curriculum past the AP course. But, when the Governor of New Jersey offered Advance Computer Science grants in 2019 to expand student access and opportunities to participate in high-quality, advanced computer science education, we took this opportunity with both hands. Working with my department chair, I drafted a proposal and came up with a plan that would add value to the student portfolios and give a boost to their future college or workplace pathways by offering them the opportunity to become industry certified.
Oracle Academy: And what is your plan for the OCA exams?
Brinder Soin: On consulting with Oracle Academy, we will begin a one-year Java Foundations course as part of the AP Computer Science A curriculum, which focuses on object-oriented programming. On top of Java Foundations, students also will need to take the Java Programming course. And to further immerse them in Java, we will be rolling out the Oracle Academy Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning in Java course.
Oracle Academy: How are you preparing students for the Oracle Certified Associate exam?
Brinder Soin: I’m planning to take the Java SE 8 Programmer exam myself to familiarize myself with the format of the test and knowledge required! In the meantime, we have a variety of materials, including Oracle’s own comprehensive study guide, that helps people confidently take the exam.
Over the next few years, we intend to make the program more widespread to help more high school students add the certification to their resumes. But first, we have work to do in getting the Java Programming and AI with ML courses fully integrated into our computer science curriculum.
Oracle Academy: What do you see as the benefits of OCA certification?
Brinder Soin: To be certified in a world-class software vendor’s technology is a plus at any age, but at 17 or 18, when our graduates leave high school, it’s a big advantage. I tell them it not only helps in their college applications but—as a hook—also can lead to well-paid side jobs while studying. And when you’re at college and apply for an internship, showing that you already have OCA validates your knowledge and puts you ahead of the curve. Bottom line: Oracle professional certification is going to make you more successful!
Oracle Academy: Good luck with that! By the way, what was it like transitioning from Wall Street to high school?
Brinder Soin: Best thing I ever did. When I realized the impact of computer science on learning, I just couldn’t quit. I found that high school students thought learning was read, remember and spit out. But, when we started computer science, I saw many Eureka moments as it sank in that it’s about understanding and applying. One student said to me: “Mr. Soin, I don’t have to remember anything anymore, I just figure things out.” I loved that!
Oracle Academy: Lastly, what type of outside activities are you involved in?
Brinder Soin: I am keen to see people embrace computer science at an early age. For the last four years, I’ve been running computer science bootcamps during summer vacation to help kids ages 8-11 and 50 of their mentors to learn to code. It’s a six-hour session, very hands-on. Parents are amazed at their kids’ attention level, because at home they can’t sit still for two minutes! Last year we went to the ACSL (American Computer Science League) All-Star Contest and scored big time!
Thank you Brinder Soin for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.