SAN ANTONIO — From corporate to classroom, a major shift in her career has landed Gina Hanna her dream job. She’s a major player in heading some of the STEM classes like computer science, robotics and the cyber security program at Fort Sam Houston Independent School District.
The classroom at Cole Junior-Senior School was a life long dream for Hanna that finally came true at the age of 40.
"Whenever you walk into the classroom, Ms. Hanna is always so happy and excited," said Annabelle Evans.
Evans is a 9th grade student in Hanna’s computer science class. She’s also part of the CyberPatriot Program which helps direct students toward careers in cybersecurity.
“Her classes are really engaging. She always keeps us involved,” Evans said. “If we look like we're starting to get bored, she'll assign us a fun little project to do, and she always lets us work with our peers because she realizes how important it is that we are allowed to communicate with one another. “
Hanna’s love for children is clear. "That's why I switched careers and that's why I've never looked back," she said.
Hanna has her computer science teaching skills down to a science, thanks to her work experience in IT Programming at USAA and other companies.
“I spent 18 years in the corporate world in information technology and I really feel like that gave me a great background and a love for the work. "
Confirmation the classroom is where she's meant to be came when one of her own former computer science students, who attended Stanford University, nominated her for an Exceptional Teacher Award.
"That was incredible,” Hanna said.
Also impressive, Hanna spends countless hours coaching both the robotics and CyberPatriot Programs.
"We actually have to load up virtual machines into my class with the student computers in my classroom that are not secure, so they have all of these vulnerabilities in the security of the schools. Then the students are given a list of tasks that they have to accomplish to secure the machines. " Hanna said, “I remember, specifically, the second practice that we had. Anabelle all of a sudden, said, 'Ms. Hanna. I think I know what I'm doing.'"
Hanna said, “I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' You know, it was like we're already winning.”
Fort Sam Houston ISD Superintendent Dr. Gary Bates said Hanna is an exceptional teacher.
“I've had opportunity to go in her classroom. You know, students are engaged. That would be a class I'd want to take.”
Engaging and Forward thinking.
Next year, Hanna will head the first ever cyber security class at the school.
"One of my biggest joys is for students to continue their computer science education beyond my classes, beyond high school, and then looking at this field of study as a career. "
As part of the KENS 5 Excel Award, Hanna also received $1,000 from Credit Human.