Last week was the last week for seniors at Sweetwater High, which means that my AP CSA courses are pretty much empty this week (only 4 non-seniors in one period and 6 in the other). Every year, Sweetwater holds the a farewell to seniors assembly before actual graduation so that the underclassmen can see the seniors walk in with banners representing where they will be headed next (e.g. university, technical school, or military). During the assembly, it really hit me how awesome this senior class has been–there have been truly exceptional individuals in this graduating class.
Since I am taking a year-long leave of absence next year to focus on finishing the program and to intern at Qualcomm to explore my career options, I took home all the notes, gifts, and artwork students have given to me over the years and put them in a scrapbook.
Perhaps most touching are the notes received from students who have told me that I have fostered their love for computer science. Just this year, I had a sophomore student enrolled in AP CSA (usually a class taken Junior or Senior year) who took the course because her older brother (our 2019 Valedictorian) urged her to. This whole school year she worked diligently to understand the depth and breadth of the course material and even wound up outperforming her brother in the end. I was moved when she informed me that I really impacted her in gaining a love for computer science. This is something I strive for because often times we as teachers are hindered by the cumbersome requirements of the curriculum to make a course fun and engaging–and, wow, there is a LOT to cover in AP CSA in just one year if your students have had minimal to no computer science / programming experience!
My experience in impacting young women in the computer science classroom parallels this week’s discussion topic — Black Girls Code.
Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls Code with the vision of, not only increasing the number of women of color in the digital world, but to provide them with the tools to become innovators–not mere consumers–of technology. She cites the importance of having role models in STEM fields that one can identify with–role models that look like you and are a part of your social group and/or culture–to open up avenues that might otherwise seem unattainable.
I believe that I have served a similar goal, at a smaller scale, at Sweetwater High. Though I am not Latina or Filipina (the two largest ethnic groups the school serves), as a woman, I have served as a role model for young women at Sweetwater High wanting to pursue computer science. It is for this reason that, even though I may move on to software engineering, I will always maintain ties with CS education and mentorship.