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UA Little Rock Graduate Student Honored with National Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award

Beth Cerrone and her students attend the NICE K12 Cybersecurity Education Conference in Phoenix.
Beth Cerrone and her students attend the NICE K12 Cybersecurity Education Conference in Phoenix.

A cybersecurity instructor from Colorado who is a part of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s inaugural cohort of the National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy has been recognized as one of the best cybersecurity teachers in the country.

Beth Cerrone, a cybersecurity instructor at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools in Longmont, Colorado, has been named the 2023 high school teacher recipient of the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award.

The annual award, which is sponsored by the National Department of Education, is awarded to one exceptional high school teacher in the nation who demonstrates superior achievement in instilling skills, knowledge, and passion in cybersecurity. The award recognizes demonstrated superior educator accomplishment as well as academic achievement by the educator’s students.

“This award is a huge honor, and I was shocked when I received the news that I had won,” Cerrone said. “There have been a lot of people who have supported me throughout this journey.”

Originally a mathematics and computer science educator, Cerrone started her path to becoming a cybersecurity teacher when one of her students approached with an interest in learning more about cybersecurity.

“This was five years ago, and there wasn’t a cybersecurity class in our district at the time,” she said. “He asked me to mentor him, and we developed an outline and a curriculum. When I came to the Innovation Center four years ago, I was tasked with creating a cybersecurity pathway. I started off with one Intro to Cybersecurity course. Now I have five intro courses and six different courses offered in the pathway. It’s been quite the evolution.”

The comprehensive Cybersecurity pathway for St. Vrain Valley Schools, which equips students for the workforce, military, and higher education, now offers six courses in the pathway, including four certifications and the opportunity for students to earn nine dual credit hours from a local community college.

Cerrone also leads the student Cyber Tech Project Team at the Innovation Center, providing students with various opportunities to apply their skills in real-world projects, enhancing crucial industry skills like leadership, public speaking, project management, collaboration, and professionalism.

Cerrone received the award Dec. 5 at the NICE K12 Cybersecurity Education Conference in Phoenix, where Cerrone and several of her students were presenting on the Cyber Tech Project Team. Recent initiatives include the Senior Citizen Project, where the Cyber Tech Project Team collaborates with the Longmont Senior Center to educate seniors on online safety.

Cybersecurity programming in St. Vrain also involves student participation in various competitions such as Cyber Patriot, CyberStart America, PicoCTF, Code Quest, and Code Wars, where students work collaboratively to tackle cybersecurity challenges.

Cerrone joined the National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy at UA Little Rock in 2021, where she takes graduate courses in cybersecurity pedagogy and operations.

“It is an honor to have Beth in the first cohort of the NCTA,” said Dr. Philip Huff, assistant professor of cybersecurity at UA Little Rock. “It’s incredibly challenging to serve as a classroom teacher and give up your free time to deep dive into grad school. Her efforts not only enrich her students’ learning experience but also bring valuable insights to her peers and faculty at UA Little Rock, inspiring us all to improve the quality of cybersecurity education.”

This summer, Cerrone will complete the Teaching Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate, a nationally recognized teacher credentialing program. She is grateful to the NCTA for helping her become a better cybersecurity teacher and providing her with a cohort of colleagues across the country.

“I want to thank UA Little Rock for all the opportunities and everything I’ve learned with Dr. Huff and the NCTA,” Cerrone said. “I think it’s a great program, and I would highly suggest people take advantage of it.”