Ask any successful leader, regardless of sector, to identify the five people who most positively influenced their careers, and chances are good that at least one teacher will be on that list. The award recognizes outstanding and high-achieving licensed computer science teachers who teach Computer Science (CS) at any K-12 school in the state of Indiana.  

Unlike most of the peer-reviewed Mira Awards, Nextech – the 2020 Tech Education Mira Award winner – selects the CS Teacher of the Year award and provides a $1,000 cash grant to the winner. The award recognizes outstanding and high-achieving licensed computer science teachers who teach full CS courses at any public, charter, parochial or other school in the state of Indiana.

Brian Belch, who has an impressive 26-year career in education – 20 of them in CS – was announced last week at the 25th annual TechPoint Mira Awards gala as the winner of the 2024 Nextech K-12 Computer Science Teacher of the Year.  He is a CS/English/History Teacher at MSD Decatur Township

Belch began his career teaching sixth and eventually also seventh and eighth grade English at Christ the King Catholic School, and added “Computers,” to that list in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He first focused on using using MS Office and added html/css and webdesign, enticing students with “Choose-your-own-adventure websites,” project websites, and portfolio websites. After switching to the Decatur school system, he again began as an English teacher but added a Web Design course.  He quickly added Social Studies to his license in 2012 to offer a Blocked “Humanities” course combining U.S. History and English 11, where he introduced students to the history of surveillance and the Snowden leaks, bringing in web design and cybersecurity as products and topics. In 2016, Belch earned his CS license after going through Nextech training, which enabled him to offer Advanced Placement CS. Before long, he’d secured more certifications and added cybersecurity to the lineup.

When the school corporation adopted Next Level Programs of Study, he was able to, finally, follow his first love in CS, programming.

Nextech President Karen Jung, who presented the award to Belch, said he is the “epitome of a lifelong learner who never turns down an opportunity to grow and to put his talents and enthusiasm to work for Indiana youth.”

“Brian is a teacher-learner who understands the value of bringing real-world events into the classroom to engage students and adapting what he teaches to give them what they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world,” she said. “Brian threads all of that through his various subject matter teaching, demonstrating to his students how everything is interconnected.”

Belch, who won the 2022-2023 Decatur Township District Teacher of the Year as well as the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year, said he was humbled by the Mira Awards honor.

“Every student needs CS skills, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to bring these topics into the classroom long before the state started focusing on it,” he said. “Indiana doesn’t yet require CS as a graduation requirement. Let’s work on getting that done.”

“Anyone who uses a smartphones, a computer, a gaming console or the Internet is already using digital tools. They can – and should learn computer science,” he said. 

Jung said the Nextech committee had a difficult time determining which of Indiana’s outstanding CS teachers to choose for the Award. Belch stood out, she said, because of the combination of enthusiasm for CS and the compassion he brings to his classroom.

“Brian lives out his belief that educators must foster a culture that allows students to feel safe to explore their interests, to reach further than even they may believe is possible,” she said.

“He really said it better than I can,” she said, referring to a statement Belch made during the selection process:

““The subjects we teach do not matter if we do not teach to the person and where they are. If we can model for them, and instill in them empathy, trustworthiness, perseverance, a sense of humor, we can kindle their imagination, and the learning will come,” he said.