Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Simona Benigno, ITIS Enrico Fermi High School, Rome, Italy.
Professor Simona Benigno is a computer science teacher at ITIS Enrico Fermi High School in Rome, Italy. With high demand in Italy for Java skills, Professor Benigno focuses on equipping students with a solid grounding in the Java programming language. She has built her classes around the Java curriculum available from Oracle Academy and encourages students to sit the respective Oracle Academy Junior Certification exams.
Before teaching, Benigno worked for 10 years in companies using Oracle technology, creating procedures for database querying and scripting and developing billing systems and other business applications. That industry experience gave her the passion for Oracle that today she shares with students from 14 to 18, tomorrow’s leaders in digital transformation.
Oracle Academy: How did you get involved with Oracle Academy?
Simona Benigno: In April 2015, a colleague sent me an invitation to attend a training course in Database Design and Programming with SQL and Programming with PL/SQL organized by Oracle Academy. It was great to get back in touch with the world of Oracle, which I had used in various jobs before teaching. That first course showed me how Oracle Academy helps computer science teachers to teach better and provide deeper learning for students.
Afterwards, because Java is my main focus, I followed the online Oracle Academy Java curriculum and obtained certificates of completion for Java Foundations and Java Programming. In 2017, I moved to the ITIS Enrico Fermi state-run school. This school relied on standard textbooks, and so I made a proposal for the school to become an Oracle Academy Institutional member and benefit from the wide range of available resources. The computer science department and the school board unanimously accepted.
How is Oracle Academy curriculum now used in the school?
Simona Benigno: We teach Oracle Academy’s Java courses in grades 3, 4, and 5, so 14- to 18-year-olds. I have three classes of 20 to 25 students. In third grade, we begin with Alice and Greenfoot as an introduction to programming languages. In fourth and fifth grades, I use the Java Foundations and Java Fundamentals curricula, going deeper in grade 5 as students prepare for their important Maturità exams.
Oracle Academy: What benefits are you seeing?
Simona Benigno: As teachers, we have access to very rich teaching resources and that obviously benefits the students. What they love is the real-life experience. They tell me it breaks the barrier between academic theory and the world of work, giving a better understanding of the skillsets required in the marketplace.
Oracle Academy: Do you also promote the idea of Oracle professional certification?
Simona Benigno: Yes, this is something we are working towards. In the next school year, I hope to have one class dedicated to preparing students for sitting for the Java Foundations Certified Junior Associate exam. It’s enormously useful for student CVs, and my students know the value it will add to their job interviews.
Demand for Java skills is high in Rome and Italy generally, and we get requests from HR people all the time. One company recently came looking for skills to help in developing Internet of Things.
A side benefit of learning with Oracle Academy is a great improvement in English language skills, vital for today’s world of work. I make sure they follow all the online courses and work with the original documentation so that they have a better grasp of the whole program.
Oracle Academy: What about internships?
Simona Benigno: Yes, the Italian Ministry of Education has a program called Alternanza Scuola Lavoro, under which students can spend a number of months per year working in companies or government. Recently, seven of my students spent five months at a company using their Java skills to help create a digital campus, essentially an Internet of Things project.
It was a wonderful experience. In March we presented at the Oracle Academy Day in Rome, an event that led to a significant number of new enrollments for our school.
Oracle Academy: What comes next?
Simona Benigno During this last school year, teachers from our school have joined others to take refresher courses to next year roll out a complete three-year study program composed of Java Foundations, Java Fundamentals, and Java Programming. We probably also will include Artificial Intelligence with Machine Learning in Java.
The hope is to continue the collaboration with Oracle Academy in building new courses and further developing us as teachers ― and therefore creating more successful computer science graduates.
Thank you, Professor Simona Benigno, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.