Upper School Computer Science teacher and robotics coach Kristen Kennedy reflects on the ways in which she combines her background in computer-aided design with experiential learning opportunities to create an innovative and inspiring classroom experience for her students.

Why did you want to become a teacher?

I first worked for a restoration company, doing the 3D plan design of homes, and that’s how I got into computer science and computer-aided design (CAD). Then I realized that what I really wanted to do was teach, so I changed jobs and moved into teaching technology and computer science. That experience has also affected the way that I teach computer science. I’ve seen its application in practice, and that influenced me to not just teach about the concept but also about its uses.

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that we are all in a constant state of learning, and we should be open to everything around us and challenge ourselves to find the things that are interesting and meaningful to take on. Also, I emphasize that students should not be afraid to fail, because that’s part of the learning process.
I emphasize that students should not be afraid to fail, because that’s part of the learning process.
Much of the work that goes on in the Innovation Lab is structured around the idea of following an iterative process of prototyping, testing, learning from the issues that arise, reworking the prototype and trying again. How do you teach that mindset, especially when girls tend to want to get things right on the first try?

I think this is a very important thing for them to learn. I teach it from the perspective that we’re in a constant state of learning – they’re learning, I’m learning, no one has all the answers and we’re going to continue to reset. Often we will go back to the exploration phase and do more research because we’ll be informed of something we didn’t think of before. I tell them that the first iteration of their project probably will not match the last iteration, because they’re going to make improvements along the way. There is always room for improvement – and that’s not a bad thing.

You serve as a coach for one of Bryn Mawr’s robotics teams. What has that experience been like?

This was my first time working with robotics, and I had the younger group this year – freshman and sophomores. A large number of them were also coming into it for the first time, so we had the same amount of experience. They were a wonderful group, and it was really fun to learn together with them through the season.

You are stuck on a desert island. Assume that food, water and shelter are accounted for – what three items would you want to have with you?

My dog, a laptop with a Wi-Fi connection and a generator (though I realize that is probably cheating!).

What do you need for a day at Bryn Mawr?

A Red Bull and my office-mate, Mrs. Letras!
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, The Bryn Mawr School is a private all-girls pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school with a coed preschool for ages 2 months through 5 years. Bryn Mawr provides students with exceptional educational opportunities on a beautiful 26-acre campus within the city limits. Inquisitive girls, excellent teaching, strong student-teacher relationships and a clear mission sustain our vibrant school community where girls always come first.