our professional programmers, including two Microsoft employees in Redmond, Washington, will be making a difference at Seaside High School via a program called Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, or TEALS.
Jeff Hiatt, a local professional programmer who telecommutes to a company in Portland, will be in the classroom in person as a teaching assistant.
Sam Nelson, a Seaside High School graduate who lives in Springfield, where he works for a startup company, will support students via teleconference.
Microsoft employees Sandy Spinrad and Sean Mitchell will teacher the class via teleconference.
TEALS is in four schools in Oregon — one each in Seaside, Bend, Portland, and Amity and in 352 schools nationally this year.
“One new program that I’m really excited about is our TEALS program,” Seaside High School Principal Jeff Roberts said at the start of the school year.
TEALS is a cooperative effort between Microsoft Philanthropies and school districts to introduce students to coding, Roberts said.
Microsoft provides volunteers who will work directly with a classroom teacher to co-teach classes on coding.
“After two years of co-teaching the class we will have the ability to offer the class independently and turn it into an AP computer science program,” Roberts said.
The goal of TEALS is to help ensure that high-school teachers teaching computer science teach to a student’s capacity through high-caliber curriculum and volunteer support, Anthony Papini, Volunteer Engagement Manager for Microsoft Philanthropies said.
Volunteers are industry professionals who have academic and professional background in computer science have gone through training.
Educators partner with computer science experts in the classroom, Papini said.
Seaside School District Curriculum Director Sande Brown said she learned about the TEALS program when she went to the National Science Conference in Portland a year ago.
“It is difficult to find high-school teachers for computer science as people with CS degrees usually end up going into the better paying field of computer science programming/coding,” Brown said. “So Microsoft wanted to come alongside current teachers in schools and help build their capacity to teach computer science.”
In Seaside, science and math teacher Doug Mitchell already had some programming experience. He volunteered to be the TEALS teacher, Brown said.
Classroom teachers are supported by the four programmers.
“The first year they support a beginning programming class, and the second year they support an advanced programming class, increasing the responsibility of the classroom teacher over time to take over the class,” Brown said.
The professional programmers leave after two years.
The school district pays the programmers a stipend. The school district also seeks local professional programmers to teacher or provide classroom support.
“TEALS will provide programmers if we can’t,” Brown said.
Courses include an introduction to computer science course using SNAP, a visual object-oriented language.
“The goal with this course is not so much to teach coding, but to teach the foundation of computer science,” Brown said. “To make sure students understand how this all works.”
Students learn using games like Hangman, Space Invaders and Mario Brothers.
The second semester introduces data types, functions, loops and the Python language.
The results appear to be paying off, Papini said. “We have seen, consistently, year to year, half of the students who take TEALS courses say they’re more likely to pursue careers in computer science.”
Nine out of 10 students say TEALS is beneficial to their learning, and TEALS students scored higher on national computer programming exams.
TEALS also provides the curriculum and summer training for the classroom teacher and the professional programmers.
“We want to continue to make a deep impact in Seaside and other parts of Oregon to ensure students have access to rigorous high-quality computer science and that teachers are able to build their capacity to teach computer science,” Papini said.