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Workshop Prepares Teachers to Become Cyber Coaches

When Allen Stubblefield started the cyber competition team at Fullerton’s Troy High School in 2010, there was little in the way of guidance and he admits that he didn’t know what he was doing.

He now has the largest team in the country and was named CyberPatriot Coach of the Year in 2016. He’s partnering with the California Cyberhub initiative to share what he’s learned to help other teachers at middle schools high schools start their own CyberPatriot teams and for local colleges to support these middle and high school teams.

Stubblefield was one of the speakers at a CyberPatriot coaches training and workshop held September 16 in Ventura. The program was coordinated by Donna Woods, California Cyberhub Community Manager, and Paula Hodge, Deputy Sector Navigator for Information and Communications Technologies / Digital Media in the South Central Coast Region.

The event’s goal was to provide an overview of how the CyberPatriot program works and the opportunities available to educators through the California Cyberhub.

“What we’d like to do is be able to emulate this type coaching throughout the state and create a program that Deputy Sector Navigators can utilize throughout their regions,” Woods said.

Participating in CyberPatriot competitions can help students become interested in cybersecurity and provide educational pathways from middle school to high school to community college. Stubblefield said the key is to get students involved early so that they can grow into leadership roles on the team and cement an interest in cybersecurity as a career path. 

There are thousands of cybersecurity jobs that are going unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. The supply and demand issue also leads to higher starting salaries — a point that typically resonates well with students and parents.

“I have eighth graders saying that this is what they want to do after college, which is cool to be around,” Stubblefield said. “They like what they’re doing and are part of a digital generation so they’re very comfortable with technology and not afraid to fail.”

In order to make that success happen, though, a school needs a cyber champion who can organize competitions, camps, and other events to promote cybersecurity. Resources are available through the Cyberhub to make that happen as long as someone has the time and willingness to invest.

One the Cyberhub’s long-term goals is to provide resources that high school and college instructors can implement without an extensive IT background. Teachers can learn cybersecurity technology right along with their students, and everyone benefits from an increased understanding of how to stay safe online.

“40 percent of our high schools in the country offer computer science, but that means 60 percent don’t,” Stubblefield said. “We are trying to figure out how we can structure curriculum so a science or math teacher can teach cybersecurity. We’re trying to make it as a simple as we can.”

To do that, Woods said she hopes to utilize a train the trainer model to create cyber ambassadors at high schools and colleges who can work with their colleagues at other schools to set up their own teams and events.

“Schools can jump in at any time during the year, they are not locked into certain dates,” Woods said. “They can set up a quick cyber event or shadow another team in their experience. What we showed them was just the beginning of what they can do throughout the year.”