With technology a staple of modern life, providing adequate training and exposure to computer science for high school students can be a challenge.
To provide this crucial part of the curriculum, the Peninsula School District introduced the TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program to Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools last fall.
TEALS was well received by the high school students enrolled in the program, said Lesha Engels, director of College & Career Readiness for the district, and also by the teachers who are teaching the class.
“There was a demand from the community and students for this type of class,” Engels said. “When you see students seeking out how to learn something on their own, then you know there’s a demand for the classes.”
While students and faculty are eager for the program to continue to succeed, the difficulty currently is in finding community members who work in the computer science field to volunteer in the classes, a key component of the standard TEALS model.
There was a demand from the community and students for this type of class. When you see students seeking out how to learn something on their own, then you know there’s a demand for the classes.
Lesha Engels, director of College & Career Readiness
Started in 2009 by Kevin Wang, a Microsoft employee, the TEALS program has been supported by Microsoft since 2011 and is part of the company’s global YouthSpark initiative to increase access to computer science education to youth worldwide. The program provides three models for schools to utilize in their classroom, with in-person instruction from community volunteers from the field leading a class as the preferred model because it provides students with engagement from a local professional in the field.
A remote instruction model provides instruction from a industry professional to classrooms without community volunteers, and is currently the model used by high schools in the district.
“Basically you have a giant Skype session going on between the students and the teacher,” Engels said of the remote instruction classes. “We want local volunteers because it’s great when you can connect with the community and with industry professionals within the community.”
Engels said that for the 2016-2017 school year, both Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools will feature both an Intro and AP TEALS class.
We want local volunteers because it’s great when you can connect with the community and with industry professionals within the community.
These classes cover basic computer science topics with the Intro class curriculum based off a class taught at UC Berkeley and the AP class based off a University of Washington curriculum. Community volunteers are provided training from the TEALS program before interacting with the class and volunteering schedules are flexible with teachers.
The ultimate goal, Engels said, is to expose students to as many different career options as possible while in school — especially to careers they may not have considered before.
“There are a lot of students who would succeed in this field if they tried it out,” Engels said. “They’re learning it by doing. They’re active in the classroom.”
Local industry professionals interested in volunteering for the TEALS program can find further information online at tealsk12.org.