Oregon STEM teacher wins national award

Shawn Patrick Higgins, a computer science teacher at Oregon Charter Academy, will help educators in the Philippines incorporate gamification to their curriculum.

A person wearing glasses and a red knit cap smiles while gazing upward.

Shawn Patrick Higgins is the founder of ScratchEd PDX, a creative coding organization for educators.

Photo courtesy of Shawn Patrick Higgins with ORCA

A computer science teacher at Oregon Charter Academy (ORCA) — a tuition-free online school serving K-12 students, many of whom live in Portland — is one of 20 US teachers chosen for the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching. The federal program sends educators to participating countries to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teaching.

Shawn Patrick Higgins, a coding and game-making teacher at ORCA for grades 6-12, will travel to the Philippines in January where he’ll train teachers on how to incorporate gamification into their classrooms. (Read: Gamification is the addition of game elements like point scoring and competition to non-game activities.) Basically, he’ll be showing fellow educators how to make learning more fun.

“As someone who came from adversity, I find it empowering to provide a classroom, whether it’s virtual or not, that introduces skills that can completely change the trajectory of students’ lives,” said Higgins.