Featured Teachers

Jeff Hanson, Director of the Academy of Information Technology

Damascus High School, Montgomery County, MD

Mr. Hanson began his career as a chemistry teacher in 1995. As his interest in information technology deepened, he pursued a master's degree in computer science education, which he completed in 1999. Mr. Hanson teaches computer programming, CompTIA A+ certification, and Cisco CCNA certification courses in the Cisco Networking Academy. He himself holds numerous professional certifications, including Cisco CCNA certification, CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ and the CompTIA Advanced Security Professional certifications, and teaches Network+ and Security+ at Frederick Community College. He also mentors students wishing to compete in IT challenges, most notably the Cyber Foundations Competition portion of the US Cyber Challenge.

How is the program at your school unique?
Out of 25 high schools in our school district, we're one of only six schools with a Cisco Networking Academy, which is part of our larger Academy of Information Technology.

Why you get involved with competitions?
I thoroughly enjoy the subject matter, as do my students, and the Cyber Foundations Challenge seemed like a good tie-in with our networking classes & a way to see the material in action. I have learned a ton by coaching the students. I spend a lot of time doing research to learn about tools being used in the industry, and then I design lab activities so the students can explore how to use the tools.

What do you enjoy the most about coaching students in the competition?
I love seeing them succeed! Last year, one of our students came in first place in the state of Maryland. He got a full scholarship to the University of Texas and a summer internship with the federal government. I have students who've gotten accepted to Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland because of their involvement in the Cyber Foundations Challenge. I've also worked with students who were just sort of generally interested in computers, or web design, and after participating in Cyber Foundations, they decided that they want to pursue careers in cyber security. The students and I put in a lot of time, but the payoff is so rewarding.

Mandy Galante, Teacher of Technology

Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver, NJ

Mrs. Galante holds CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ certifications and is pursuing a master's degree in cyber security.

Mrs. Galante has been the coach for student cyber competitions in which RBR students have won regional, state and national prizes. "I have been fortunate to work with amazingly bright students who are willing and enthusiastic in trying new things. While I may teach these subjects, that doesn't mean I know all the answers. My students and I have learned so much together in these cyber contests and it has added a fun dynamic to our cyber education."

How is the program at your school unique?
I was working as a network administrator, and through so many of my relationships in the community, I was hearing of a real need for students to learn networking. I changed my career path and began teaching as a result of that feedback. We had a solid program in place to teach networking, but the students were interested in learning more, especially about hacking and cyber security. So we cobbled together a customized curriculum that offers a broad view of information technology.

Why you get involved with competitions?
I find that if I listen to my students, I'm going in the right direction. This was another decision that was student-driven. A student found information about Cyber Foundations online and suggested it would be better than my lectures! We're always trying to find opportunities for hands-on learning, and I thought that even if we didn't do well, we'd have fun trying. Our expectation was that we'd be in way over our heads and that we'd learn a lot. We have learned a lot, but we also found that we knew more than we thought we did. The students have just loved the whole process. I have a curriculum to teach, and I'm not adding to it or teaching to the competition, but I do help them figure out the right approaches and identify the right resources that can help them if they want to win. And the students who succeed on a regular basis are the ones who are dedicated and determined enough to follow up on all the pointers I give them, so they're developing other important skills as well.

What do you enjoy the most about coaching students in the competition?
I love seeing the benefits that come from doing well. Obviously, this is a huge self-esteem builder. Winning a competition means public recognition of your accomplishments, which is so very important for teenagers and motivates them in so many different ways. Secondly, their participation and success reinforces that information technology and cyber security are really viable as a path of college study and a future career. When we win at Cyber Foundations, internships become available. The Lieutenant Governor came to visit us to congratulate the students. Those things tell kids that this is a career path that wants you and will reward you.