North Lenoir High School teacher wins grant for ‘Code Talker to Code Writer’ project

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For the second year in a row, a teacher at North Lenoir High School has won a CenturyLink Teachers and Technology grant to help their students learn high-tech skills.

The $4,900 grant was awarded to English teacher Reginald Dawson, who plans to use the funds to integrate his students’ study of the novel “Code Talker” with introductory lessons in computer coding.

Dawson’s application, “Code Talker to Code Writer,” presents his concept as “a unique approach to integrating technology into a high school English classroom. My vision is to integrate technology seamlessly into my curriculum in a manner that will support students’ other academic areas: math, science, and history.”

“Code Talker,” written by Joseph Bruchac, explores the role that Navajos in the U.S. Marines played in battlefield communications by using the unbreakable code that was their native language.

In addition to reading the novel and completing related research projects, Dawson’s students will collaborate with students in an AP computer coding class at North Lenoir to learn the basics of the Apple coding program Swift Playground.

“This project will allow students to see how their English skills can complement their math, history, science and technology skills to be used in a powerful manner,” Dawson wrote in his application.

Derek T. Kelly, government affairs director for CenturyLink, said its highly unusual for this grant to be awarded to a teacher outside of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subject.

“When you get into high schools, a lot of times it’s the ag department, engineering or science. It’s fun to start seeing that integration at the high school level,” Kelly said.

Dawson was formally awarded the grant during a presentation on Wednesday at the school.

The $4,900 award will provide Dawson’s classes with a MacBook laptop, copies of the novel, Sphero robots to help test and refine their coding skills and sundry supplies.

Nationally, the CenturyLink Clark M. Williams Foundation awarded 180 grants valued at $750,000 in 34 states this year. There were about 1,300 grant applications submitted.

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