Today, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Security Agency announced the 2021 recipients of the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award. Kristina L. Rice, of Spotsylvania High School in Spotsylvania, Virginia and Sergio de Alba, of Miano Elementary School in Los Banos, California, were selected for the award for instilling in their students the skills, knowledge, and passion for cybersecurity.
“Talented and passionate educators like Ms. Rice and Mr. de Alba help light a spark of curiosity in our students to explore the exciting world of cybersecurity. And high-quality cybersecurity education can inspire a lifelong passion among the next generation of professionals in this field, who will protect our cyber networks and help secure our nation’s future prosperity,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “It is my privilege to recognize Ms. Rice and Mr. de Alba for their dedication and accomplishments, which serve as an inspiration for cybersecurity educators across America.”
The Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award, now in its second year, is presented annually to one elementary educator and one secondary educator. Awardees are selected for their superior accomplishments as educators, academic achievement indicators, and leadership contributing to the field of cybersecurity.
“These esteemed educators embody the expertise and dedication that is critical to strengthening our cybersecurity workforce,” said National Cyber Director Chris Inglis. “Our nation faces a shortage of cybersecurity professionals and educators play a vital role in preparing students to gain the skills needed to navigate pathways to cybersecurity careers. High-quality cybersecurity education is key to addressing this national security imperative.”
Ms. Rice is a local, state, and national leader in expanding cybersecurity education and increasing access to high-quality programs to groups underrepresented in the industry. She leads Spotsylvania High School’s Cyber Knights program, which provides students with technical resources to pursue their interests in cybersecurity. Ms. Rice led the all-girls Cyber Knights team that placed second in the 2019 and 2020 Girls Go Cyberstart National Championships. She also designed a pacing guide for educators teaching cybersecurity fundamentals that has been shared nationally. Ms. Rice’s students have a 100% graduation rate; a 100% college, military, and career readiness attainment rate; and 98.2% earn industry certifications.
Mr. de Alba is committed to cultivating student interest in cybersecurity and future career opportunities. As a first-year teacher in 2001, he founded the STEM program at R.M. Miano Elementary School. Mr. de Alba has also spearheaded the Cybersecurity Challenge for sixth-grade students; facilitated science, math, and coding clubs; and designed programs to improve parental involvement. Miano Elementary serves a student population that is 97% socioeconomically disadvantaged and 88% English language learners. Mr. de Alba’s excellence in teaching is evident in the exemplary performance of his students on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.
Ms. Rice and Mr. de Alba will be honored during the NICE K12 National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education Conference. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten will moderate a conversation with the award winners as part of the conference.
The Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award is led by the U.S. Department of Education, in consultation with the White House National Security Council and the National Science Foundation.