Said El Mejdani: surviving and thriving in remote northern community

Year: 2019 – Province: Alberta

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Said El Mejdani

Junior High and Advanced Placement Computer Science, Coding, 3D Graphics and
Games, E-Sports, Phone Apps, grades 7 to 12
Westwood Community High School, Fort McMurray, Alberta

"Mr. Said is everything a student could want. He taught me beyond the curriculum and has fostered skills such as problem solving and creativity. With that, he also taught me to keep community and compassion at the centre of my life."
— Former student

Said El Mejdani, who is fluent in four languages, started out teaching math in French. Then, a student asked him hold a coding session and brought 15 friends with him. This led to one coding course, and another and another. Now, families with children as young as four seek out his programs.

Teaching approach

With a passion for disruptive technology and innovation, Said embraces students uninterested in academics and provides an avenue for them to experience success. He knows every student can thrive when they drive their own learning, so he coaches students to think critically to reach their goals.

In the classroom

  • Involves students in the community to make real-world connections: helped students create youth computing group and partnered with organizations to organize the first community computer science events, including a hackathon, and an entrepreneurial conference and pitch competition.
  • Prepares students for technology-related jobs with hands-on projects (e.g. an app that displays live bus travel times) and a summer digital skills academy that links students with industry and social enterprises to see how they can use their technological knowledge once they leave school.
  • Capitalizes on students' interest in one area of technology, such as gaming, and then introduces them to the broader technological world, such as animation, virtual reality and 3D modelling; has led some students with significant attendance problems to come to class regularly.
  • Creates digital learning opportunities for students of every age: high school students mentor elementary children in afterschool programs; weekend camps intrigue young learners about coding and STEM, leading one Grade 4 girl to create a coding club at her school.

Outstanding achievements

  • Built school's computer science program from scratch, with no budget initially; created a suite of 12 courses, including writing curriculum to fill gaps he perceived in provincial requirements.
  • Responded to overwhelming demand for technology-related courses at a growing school by working with other teachers to integrate technology learning into their subject areas.
  • Student achievement is very high: some have had perfect scores on national coding competitions, other have placed high in the Canada Wide Science Fair; still others have won prestigious scholarships.
  • Honoured twice by school district, for leadership in coding and for after-school coding program.

Get in touch!

Westwood Community High School
221 Tundra Drive
Fort McMurray T9H 4Z7
Twitter: @Wwhighschool, @WestwoodCoders

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