California Teacher Honored as Inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award Recipient

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Moreno Valley, CA – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced this week that Donna Woods, the Career Technical Education Cyber Pathway Instructor, at Moreno Valley Unified School District, has been selected as one of two national inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award recipients. This award recognizes Ms. Woods, of Canyon Springs High School, for instilling in her students the skills, knowledge, and passion for cybersecurity. Ms. Woods was nominated for the honor by synED, a non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, jobseekers and education providers

“Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing fields in the world. This award recognizes great teachers who are helping prepare our students to fill those jobs and help keep our nation safe now, and in the future,” said U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Ms. Woods has fostered pathways to success for students by guiding the creation of career and technical education programs with emphasis on cybersecurity, which include real-world training such as internships and apprenticeships alongside classroom instruction. Throughout Ms. Woods’ five years in the Moreno Valley Unified School District’s Cyber Academic Pathway, 97.4% of students have achieved industry certifications. She has also led award-winning CyberPatriot teams, which compete in challenges to secure virtual networks.

Ms. Woods credits California’s collaborative approach to cybersecurity for the successes of her students.
“The key to our success is synergy across the state. It is about breaking down silos and ensuring students, regardless of their zip code, have the tools they need to learn and build their cyber skills,” said Ms. Woods. “Thanks to the leadership at my District and partnership with synED, I’ve had the ability to work alongside industry leaders at CompTIA, Palo Alto Networks and Amazon Web Services to mentor and train my students.”

Ms. Woods was nominated for the honor by synED, a non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, jobseekers and education providers. Ms. Woods serves as the Academic Relations Manager for synED and was key in building the Cyber-Guild. The Cyber-Guild was initially formed as a collaborative effort in California (California Cyberhub) and is now a national resource to drive cybersecurity initiatives across the nation.

The Department received 43 nominations from 23 states, and Ms. Woods, along with Ms. Four Bear, of New Town Middle School in New Town, North Dakota, were selected based on their demonstration of superior educator accomplishment, academic achievement indicators, and leadership contributing to educational excellence.

“Donna has been a leader in developing Cybersecurity Guided Pathway curriculum and advising others across California. She is well-known throughout the cybersecurity education and government communities for her leadership and advocacy, both in her position as a high school teacher and for her work with Cyber-Guild. It was our pleasure to nominate her for this prestigious award to give recognition for her tireless efforts,” said Scott Young, President and Executive Director, synED.

Students are equally proud of their teacher’s historic recognition. “When I walked into Ms. Woods ‘Cyber Science’ course my senior year, I wasn’t interested in computer science or cybersecurity, but she encouraged me to understand why it was so important to my future,” said Amiyah Breeding, now a cadet at the United States Airforce Academy. “Today, being a cybersecurity professional in the United States Airforce is one of my career aspirations.”

As she embarks on her year-long responsibilities as an ambassador for cybersecurity education, she has high ambitions for raising awareness about the importance of cybersecurity in our everyday lives. “We need a national #usacyberstrong awareness campaign that features our students to showcase the future of cyber. We need to take what California has modeled, the synergies among education and industry, the development of ideas and innovation, and take it to a national audience,” concluded Ms. Woods.

In addition to her duties at Moreno Valley Unified School District and synED, Ms. Woods serves on the California Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force and the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Working Group and the NICE K-12 planning group.

As part of this commendation, Ms.Woods will receive acknowledgement by President Donald J. Trump and Secretary DeVos, public recognition as a leader in the field of cybersecurity education, and professional development opportunities.

This award was established on May 2, 2019, by President Trump’s Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce. The U.S. Department of Education was charged to create this award within one year and in consultation with the Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the National Security Council and the National Science Foundation.

For information on the nomination and selection process, please visit here. Information on the Executive Order is available here.


About SynED 

SynED is a non-profit organization that acts as a catalyst to help colleges and other higher education partners equip students with the skills they need to enrich their lives through education, knowledge and skill acquisition, giving them rich career opportunities. 

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