Maria Sellers is the first-ever Nextech Computer Science Teacher of the Year
South Vermillion educator has brought computer science to students and teachers throughout Indiana
The Nextech Computer Science Teacher of the Year award recognizes educators whose achievements advance the education of students beyond the mere use of technology: they go above and beyond to inspire students to view computer science in a new light, engage students in disciplined computer science curriculum aligned with Indiana standards and create opportunities for ALL students to participate.
Maria Sellers, the inaugural Nextech Computer Science Teacher of the Year, epitomizes both the letter and the spirit of the award’s criteria. Sellers will be honored with the award during TechPoint’s 24th annual Mira Awards gala recognizing the best of tech in Indiana.
Sellers began her career as a music teacher but found her calling in computer science (CS), a discipline she has championed as an educator and coach, teaching children as well as other teachers along the way. She has taught in the South Vermillion Community School Corporation in Clinton since 2003. For her first 10 years, she taught music to elementary students. In 2012, she reached back to her own middle school experience with CS and became an eLearning specialist. She returned to the middle school classroom to teach computer science in 2016.
It did not take long for her to realize the corporation’s good technology intentions needed to be expanded, and thus began a campaign, in her words, “to drive the CS bus,” and ensure it stopped for students of all ages.
Her relentless enthusiasm paid off in 2016 when Sellers began teaching CS at the 6th, 7th and 8th grade levels. She kept pushing for more and eventually brought CS courses to all grades K-8. In 2021, CS was expanded to the high school.
“Maria’s enthusiasm for CS cannot be contained to her own classroom or even her own school corporation,” said Nextech President Karen Jung. “She’s helped train more than 200 Indiana educators, expanding CS throughout the state.”
Additionally, Sellers coaches the South Vermillion middle school Vex Robotics Teams, which have experienced competition on the world stage. She also coaches the 4-H Tech Changemakers Club, the Girls Who Code Club, and the CodeCats Club, and is a CS Fundamentals Facilitator for Code.org and Nextech.
In 2021, two of Sellers’ teams from South Vermillion Middle School were among eight schools statewide to have computer science projects highlighted at the Indiana Statehouse as part of the Nextech CSforGood Showcase.
In 2022, Sellers’ 8th graders participated in Project Lead The Way (PLTW) App Creators, a nonprofit organization that provides transformative learning experiences for PreK-12 students and teachers across the U.S. Two groups from that effort were chosen to present at the Indiana CSforGood competition and took home first and second place wins. Another team from Sellers’ 7th grade PLTW Computer Science for Innovators and Makers made it to the CSforGood finals as well.
The high school-level iCats (their nickname is the Wildcats) group focuses on CS careers and serves as the school’s troubleshooting department, repairing iPad software issues and helping teachers implement technology in the classroom. Six members of the iCats team are in college studying computer science or have obtained a computer science-related job. Each of Sellers’ middle school CS students are taking college-level CS courses and several plan to return to Vermillion County to work in CS. One of the former iCats team plans to run for a local political office with plans to push awareness for cybersecurity, digital awareness and digital citizenship for the entire community.
Jung said Sellers is the perfect teacher to win the inaugural CS Teacher of the Year award.
“Maria is a force of nature,” Jung said. “Her work with these students and teachers throughout Indiana will have ripple effects for generations and help Indiana fill its huge demand for highly skilled tech talent.”