From the moment Irvin Lemus got his first computer, he was hooked. It was an Apple 2E, and he told his dad that he wanted to know exactly what was inside of it.
Now, Lemus works to instill that same passion for technology into the students he teaches and coaches throughout the Bay Area. Lemus is the cybersecurity instructor at Cabrillo College and the Bay Area Cyber Competitions Regional Coordinator for the Western Academy Support and Training Center.
Lemus said he was drawn to cybersecurity because no two days are ever the same and it provides him the opportunity to continue to learn in an ever-changing environment.
“You have to always learn new ways of securing everything. Working in this field put my knowledge and critical thinking skills to the extreme,” Lemus said.
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Sean McNally doesn’t mind being busy. These days, he practically has two full-time jobs — one as a math teacher at Elk Grove High School and the other as a CyberPatriot coach and coordinator.
McNally has become a leader in the cybersecurity education community, continually working to empower his students with the same level of drive and dedication he’s shown over the course of his career.
He was named the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot Teacher of the Year for California in 2014 and 2015 and continues to look for new ways to further the CyberPatriot program throughout the state.
Raised by a single mother, McNally credits the Boy Scouts with teaching him the value of leadership. He rose through the ranks and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest honor, by the time he turned 18. He also developed a love of math as a child and uses that in his work as a teacher.
“Scouting taught me that if you make up your mind ahead of time to do the right thing, then 80% of all your decisions are already made for you. The remaining 20% of your decisions will depend on your experience,” he said. “Not everyone relates to math like I do. It is my responsibility to bring enthusiasm into the classroom and show them they can have fun with math.”
McNally’s enthusiasm and interest in math made him a natural fit for the CyberPatriot program. He first learned about the program when he played softball with an Air Force Association liaison that told him all about CyberPatriot.
After a chance meeting at his 20th high school reunion in 2011, he met James Vahanian, an information security analyst at Wells Fargo, who would go on to help him mentor his first team of nine students at Elk Grove High School. Vahanian’s background helped to supplement instruction in firewall configuration, intrusion detection, and penetration testing.
Cybersecurity Community Mourns Loss of Harry Talbot
The California cyber education community lost a dedicated and passionate cybersecurity education advocate with the passing of Col. Harry Talbot on January 30. He will be remembered as one of CyberPatriot’s greatest advocates and someone who consistently went above and beyond to help students succeed.
Talbot, a longtime employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), founded the district’s CyberPatriot program nearly a decade ago. Under his leadership, LAUSD earned two CyberPatriot National Championships and became the first Center of Excellence to register 100 CyberPatriot teams.
Talbot also served as an Administrative Coordinator with the Beyond the Bell program in the LAUSD. That position included oversight of more than 600 schools offering grant-funded before and after-school programs.
He facilitated the acquisition of federal, state, and private grants for more than 100,000 students in those programs on a daily basis and contributed much of his own time on evenings and weekends to ensure that those efforts were successful.
LAUSD CyberPatriot Coach Carey Peck worked closely with Talbot and said he possessed a combination of big-picture vision and the attention to detail to make his ideas come to life.
“I’ve seen the high school boys shake their heads at the girls to indicate that they should not attend cybersecurity events for girls.”
Tobi West has seen this harsh reality firsthand, and it’s what drives her to work tirelessly at putting together programs and activities that will help young women become engaged in cybersecurity as a career pathway.
Over the course of her own career, West has gone from scanning papers to Department Chair of Computer Information Systems at Coastline Community College and an adjunct instructor at Cal Poly Pomona. Her unusual journey to cybersecurity serves as an inspiration to her students.
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