Closing the computer science gap

WHS students learn from computer science professionals as part of a Microsoft partnership program.

A field trip to a local software company opened the doors to Westlake High School students to learn about coding and information technology (IT) opportunities straight from industry professionals.

WHS offers Introduction to Computer Programming and Python Programming courses thanks to a partnership with Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools). The program pairs computer science professionals with high school teachers to help build computer science (CS) teaching capacity.

WHS is one of 625 TEALS schools in the United States. This school year, 45 students have participated in the program.

WHS computer teacher Elena Prohaska said she learned about the TEALS program during a field trip to Hyland Software. She said a lot of schools don’t offer coding introduction courses, and TEALS provides a way to build and update a CS program for schools.

Chaz Wittal, a Test Analyst II at Hyland Software, is in his first year as a TEALS volunteer, but has been participating in technology outreach through Hyland for several years.

“I like helping out with kids and giving them the opportunity to learn about careers in technology. This answers questions about what’s out there,” he said. “This gives them some options they didn’t know existed.”

TEALS was founded by a former CS teacher to help high schools develop and grow sustainable CS programs. Using a co-teaching model, a team of volunteers partner with Prohaska to deliver the skills and mindset to prepare students for many possible career paths, which can include art, business, music, medicine, sports, agriculture, gaming and more.

The curriculum is based on the University of California Berkeley CS10 course and is adapted specifically for high schools. Students learn about big ideas in computing, such as abstraction and design, and explore various aspects of computing relevant to themselves and society.

According to Microsoft, 58% of all new STEM-related jobs are in computing, but just 10% of STEM graduates are in computer science.

Scott Seighman, a Solutions Architect at Red Hat, has worked in IT for more than 30 years and is a four-year TEALS volunteer.

“Sometimes you make a connection with a couple of kids and open their eyes to things they hadn’t thought about before,” Seighman said. “I’ve talked to a lot of kids that went through the program that are now studying computer science.”

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Volume 12, Issue 5, Posted 10:02 AM, 03.03.2020