WARREN - Before becoming a teacher, Pam Volakis spent time as a computer programmer in the local business world.
The Warren G. Harding High School graduate and Warren native then switched to teaching computers for the past 18 years to high school students presently at West Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania.
Next week, Volakis will be among 102 teachers from 25 states nationwide participating in the Microsoft Forum Partners in Learning Forum in Redmond, Wash.
Volakis submitted projects completed by her students and was accepted by Microsoft based on the innovative use of classroom technology for student learning. The program celebrates educators who engage students' learning through technology.
She said her students created special educational video games on Microsoft Xbox 360 that met state standards and helped other students learn.
She said students collaborated with teachers in the school district to develop interactive games to be used by special needs students in life skills program or the preschool program. Volakis said one game was math bingo, which helped students count money while having fun.
Volakis said the project required students to use critical thinking and problem solving skills to develop products for clients.
"I was very honored and excited to be selected to attend,'' she said, noting she will make a presentation explaining the projects her students created.
"We get to see the different projects students are doing in classrooms across the nation,'' Volakis said. She said the teachers will be from all different grade levels and explain how their students use computers in learning.
Volakis said Microsoft is trying to get students interested in careers in technology with this program, encouraging teachers to have students use technology in classrooms.
The event will include tours of Microsoft Center in Redmond. She also will attend professional development activities, see future technology trends and share ideas with other teachers.
Volakis and other teachers will exhibit their students' projects while competing for a spot at the Microsoft Global Forum in November in Athens, Greece.
Volakis said she keeps up with technology and uses different ways of teaching students how to use technology so that it is useful to them no matter what career they enter.
In addition to teaching, Volakis also does work with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Melon University on robotics activities.
After graduating in 1973 from Harding High School, Volakis worked in computer programming in the steel industry, including Copperweld, before changing careers to teaching computers in schools.
Volakis teaches business and computer technology for ninth to 12th grades.
''Computers are something that can be used in any career,'' she said. In addition to teaching students on computers, Volakis also trains co-workers on new software.
Volakis is the daughter of Michael and Katherine Georges of Warren.