Jasibe Gutierrez is only in eighth grade, but she is already learning how to program in her fundamentals of computer science class as part of the DATA at Ed White Middle School magnet program.
With eager eyes, Jasibe stared intently into a glowing screen through her glasses. She was working on composing a message through the BBC micro:bit, a handheld programmable micro-computer that can be used for fun creations.
“I’m working on a scrolling effect,” Jasibe explained.
If she got stuck, Gregory Meyer was on hand to help her. Meyer is a lead software developer at USAA and a volunteer through Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program, which pairs technology professionals with teachers to help build and grow computer science programs.
“I like that we have an industry expert in the class and if I have trouble with what I’m working on, I know I can count on him to help me out,” Jasibe said.
Meyer visits the class at least once a week and helps technology teacher Elizabeth Malin with the computer science curriculum provided by the TEALS program.
“He is great with mentoring the students and serves as a reinforcement with what they are learning,” Malin said.
For Meyer, giving back to education is an important part of his life.
“Both of my parents were teachers and most of my relatives are in education, I also taught at Fox Tech High School for a year, so it was important for me to show the students the opportunities that are available,” Meyer said.
For young students like Jasibe, the TEALS program is already leaving an imprint.
“I like a lot of things in this class,” Jasibe said. “It helps me express my creativity, especially through computers, and I think that is really cool because in the future if I ever want to create a computer program to help people, I can do it because I know what to do.”
She still has a few years left before she has to choose a career path, but Jasibe is leaning toward psychology.
When asked about choosing a career in computer science, she replied, “it’s definitely an option.”
Malin appreciates that the students have an opportunity to learn about the different careers in technology at a young age.
“Our brains are young and malleable so the more they are presented with the opportunities to challenge themselves learning, they can either develop and early advantage in that and steer it toward a career in that or just develop an overall interest,” Malin said.
Exposing students to careers in the computer science field is exactly what the TEALS program aims to do.
“There are so many job opportunities that are coming up and these big companies are having to headhunt outside of San Antonio to fill these jobs when we can have our students possibly fill these opportunities in the future,“ said Abby Perez, regional manager for Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS. “We are really just trying to expose them to computer science and trigger that excitement for them.”
DATA at Ed White’s partnership with the TEALS program began last school year when the magnet program established a computer science course.
“We want to provide teachers with support structure so they can have a more successful program,” said Fernando Ruiz, DATA at ED White Middle School director. “We didn’t want to send a student who had taken fundamentals of computer science to the DATA program at the high school level if it was not at the same level of rigor. The TEALS program helps us prepare our students for the computer science course at the high school level.”
The TEALS program not only helped build the program, but it also ensures it is staying up do date.
“With all career and technical education, it is so important for us to have a pulse of what is going on in the industry and so bringing an industry partner in to help assess that you are up to date is so great,” said Ben Peterson, NEISD Career and Technical Education director. “In the areas of technology, you can get behind very quickly.”
Ed White is the only middle school in San Antonio participating in this program.