TEALS Volunteer Spotlight – Joanie Weaver

Sep 16, 2015   |   Joanie Weaver

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a $75 million investment in the company’s YouthSpark initiative today, focused on computer science education. As part of this announcement, Microsoft will also expand its Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program starting Fall 2015, which enables professionals in the tech industry to volunteer and partner with teachers to start computer science programs in high schools. In celebration, we are featuring local teachers in the TEALS program to learn more about how to bring computer science programs to more schools. 
In Massachusetts, TEALS is running programs in Boston Latin Academy, Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, Medford Vocational Technical High School, Prospect Hill Academy Charter School, Revere High School, Shawsheen Valley Technical High School and Watertown High School, and we are always looking to expand!

Joanie-Weaver

When I was little, my dream job was a teacher. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve still placed “teacher” on the list of jobs I want to have, but I’ve also added more professions to that list. When I heard about TEALS, I was really excited because I realized I had an opportunity to do more than one thing I was passionate about: teaching and helping to create awesome software.

I never took Computer Science before college. When I got to MIT and was overwhelmed with all the choices for classes, I decided to try Computer Science since I had an open class slot and it seemed like a course someone technical should take. With no background experience, this class was extremely difficult for me. I remember feeling like everyone else had already taken a Computer Science class before this one. I did poorly on the first exam so I received something called a fifth week flag, which is a notification sent to every adult with whom I had a connection (i.e. my advisor, my RA, my rowing coach, etc.) that I was receiving a C or below in the class at the fifth week of the semester.

I remember my coach and a senior on my floor strongly urging me to drop the class as many others have dropped it before. “Computer Science isn’t for everyone,” and it would be a lot easier for me to take something else. But I didn’t want to drop it. I thought the class and the concepts were cool and I could see the potential to immediately use everything I was learning. I decided to stay in the class, work my hardest, and go to every office hour. At the end of the class, I was invited to be an undergrad TA for the class the next semester.

I think it’s important for Computer Science to be offered in high school to give every student a taste and a background of what it is before college. Trying Computer Science for the first time in college is difficult, especially when you feel the other students in your classes have been coding since they were five and you’re in a class so huge there’s no way the professor will know your name or even see your hand raised in class. In the high school environment, your teacher knows you by name and cares about your success; the class is small enough that if you have a question, your teacher has time to answer; and the pace is adjusted according to the class’s progress and strengths, not just how it is always taught.

Computer Science is not for everybody, but it is for anybody who is interested and willing to put in the work (and not just for the stereotypical old bald men who like sitting at computers all day).

Joanie Weaver is a Program Manager on Office at Microsoft who teaches computer science at Medford Vocational Technical High School as part of the TEALS program. She is a recent graduate from MIT with a degree in Computer Science and a teacher’s certification in high school Mathematics from the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program. She likes to run, eat, play board games, and travel.

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