TEALS: Help Teach Computer Science In Your Local High School

| Nathaniel Granor

Microsoft's Eric Jewart teaching at Cambridge Rindge and Latin. | Copyright Dana J. Quigley © 2014 | www.danajquigleyphoto.com
Microsoft’s Eric Jewart teaching at Cambridge Rindge and Latin. | Copyright Dana J. Quigley © 2014 | www.danajquigleyphoto.com

Hi. I’m Nathaniel. I’m the Regional Director for the TEALS program on the East Coast. TEALS (Technology Education & Literacy in Schools) helps high schools start teaching computer science; more about that in a minute. I used to be an engineer at Microsoft, working on SharePoint. In fact, I spent a year during that time working at NERD! But I left that enjoyable and high-paying job because I wanted to devote my working hours to address societal problems that keep me up at night. After several months of searching, I landed at TEALS.

Today, only around 10% of primary and secondary schools in the US teach computer science. That’s not how many students are studying it; that’s how many schools offer it. Over the next decade, the US economy will add 1.4 million jobs in computing, but a million of them will be unfilled because there aren’t enough people studying computer science! These jobs represent a $500 billion dollar opportunity for the US economy. But, more importantly, each one represents an opportunity for a kid somewhere in this country to have a challenging, interesting, high-paying career. [source data, from Code.org]

So why can’t students study computer science in primary and secondary school? For one thing, only 19 out of 50 states allow computer science courses to count toward high school graduation requirements. Moreover, schools can’t find teachers who have the necessary training to teach computer science. It’s a vicious cycle: not enough CS teachers -> schools don’t teach CS -> students don’t study CS -> not enough engineers and CS teachers.

That’s where TEALS comes in.

TEALS is a Microsoft YouthSpark program that recruits professional software engineers from all over the industry (if you’re reading this blog, perhaps someone like you) to come into a school before work about twice a week and help teach a computer science class. It’s a partnership between the classroom teacher and the team of volunteers. At first, the professionals handle most of the teaching. Gradually, the classroom teacher takes on increased responsibilities until, after a couple years, they can teach the course independently.

TEALS started working in Massachusetts in the 2013-14 school year. Right now, we work with two schools in Cambridge, serving around 80 students. We need your help to grow those numbers!

Here’s what Doug McGlathery, our partner teacher at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, has to say about his involvement with TEALS this year:

“TEALS has helped me tremendously in my own learning in the areas of content knowledge and practices of programming. I’ve heard from a number of students, ‘This is the hardest class I’ve ever taken in high school, but it’s my favorite class this year!'”

If you’re interested in connecting with young people and inspiring them to do good work, if you’d like to contribute to the quality of education in your community, if you’d like to share your passion for computer science and pass it along, TEALS is an excellent way to do all those things. The kids really notice, and appreciate your efforts.

I’m leading two upcoming information sessions for prospective volunteers in the Greater Boston area. I’ll talk about how the program works, and explain how you can get involved. You’ll also meet current volunteers and teachers involved in the program:

Wednesday, 4/9 6:30pm at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School: http://teals-ma-crls.eventbrite.com/
Monday, 4/28 7:00pm at Microsoft NERD Center: http://teals-ma-nerd.eventbrite.com/

Because of TEALS and similar programs, you don’t have to be like me and quit your awesome job as a software engineer in order to contribute to solving the CS education gap. Get involved!

For more information about TEALS, visit www.tealsk12.org. To apply as a volunteer, fill out the application at http://www.tealsk12.org/apply

To learn more about Microsoft’s YouthSpark, a company-wide, global initiative to create opportunities for 300 million young people through programs such as TEALS, click here.

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