Sky Adams to Lead Computer Science Academy

Santa Barbara High School’s Award-Winning Program Names First Woman Director

The first female director of SBHS Computer Science Academy, Sky Adams | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Come fall, Sky Adams will lead the award-winning Computer Science Academy at Santa Barbara High School. She replaces Richard Johnston as director, who chose her as his co-director last year ahead of the transition. The comprehensive education program saw four young women win the Congressional App Challenge in 2019, and students and teachers have won National Center for Women and Information Technology awards every year.

Adams has taught computing at Santa Barbara High since 2016 and added S.B. Junior High to her calendar in 2019. “I just love the kids. I think they are awesome,” Adams said. “It’s really cool to teach [computer science] at a junior high. There really isn’t much opportunity for them to learn it at that age.”

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Adams’s passion for computer science began at an early age thanks to her older brother. He taught her how to write “something simple, like one of those programs where you ask it something and it answers you,” she said. She earned her master’s in education from UCSB in 2016 and a bachelor’s in computer science from Brown University in 2014.

Busy encouraging young people’s interest in the dynamic job sector, she has also advised the Girls Who Code club at Adams Elementary, taken the lead in developing the SBHS annual Hackathon, and established a summer program for incoming 7th and 8th graders called the Summer of CS. That program, which was canceled this summer because of COVID-19, includes the Art and Design Camp, which has campers design several art pieces using the Processing programming language. The second session contains the Web Design Camp, in which students develop web pages from scratch using HTML and CSS programming languages.

The high school program was created by former principal John Becchio in 2012 with the simple intent to help the Robotics Club learn rudimentary programs for a competition. Calculus teacher Johnston was recruited, and Becchio brought in Dr. Zoe Wood from Cal Poly and organized outreach to young women and underrepresented students with SBHS teacher Joe Velasco. With the addition of an AP Computer Science class and an innovative curriculum taught by Paul Muhl, a senior analyst at Toyon Research and the academy’s first director, the program became a rousing success.

Adams has lofty goals for the coming semesters. Working closely with the other instructors, she would like to increase the range of classes offered in the academy, continue to increase diversity and support in the program for underrepresented students, and expand involvement and opportunity for extracurricular activities in preparation for a career in the field. Field trips to Santa Barbara tech companies are part of the learning package, as well as trips to Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach.

Adams’s leadership was noted by the academy’s foundation board president, Paula Cassin: “Sky Adams’s impact has already been felt in the CS Academy as a supportive teacher and inspiring mentor to many students, including females who are underrepresented in this field.” She’s a natural fit for the academy and the oncoming fall semester, currently set for some classes online, entirely underpinned by code.

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