In the growing push to bring programming into high schools, one group tends to get forgotten: teachers. That’s why Hack Reactor, Mission Bit, MPICT, and the Bay Area Industry Education Council created a program to boost the programming knowledge of San Francisco high school teachers in computer science and related fields.
“I've been teaching really old school stuff, and we're getting updated,” said participating teacher Tera Freedman of Mission High School.
Coding is an accelerating field, and in order for computer science education to keep up with the demands of the industry, teachers need to be given time and space for professional development. Under the program, teachers are given a grant to participate in an externship of three 40-hour weeks. The first part of this is an instructional period at Hack Reactor, taught by Hack Reactor grad and Mission Bit staff member Shane Keller. Once this is complete, the teachers spend time at a participating company, working on projects and shadowing professionals.
“When you're a teacher, you don't have a lot of time for professional development,” Freedman adds.
The companies bringing these teachers in for short-term stays have the long view in mind.
“Some of what we teach is what it's like being in these particular career fields,” says Jorge Goncalves, who teaches in the career tech education department at Abraham Lincoln High School. “It will be beneficial to come back and come back to our students and tell them what these jobs look like.”
In the meantime, the teachers are making the most of their time at Hack Reactor.
“I’m having a blast,” says Douglas Singer of Burton High School. “This space is really cool….Our instructor, Shane, has been really cool. He's really patient. We're all kind of at different levels, and he's really good at working with all of us.”
“What's nice about this is that we don't get together,” adds Freedman. “It's really cool to share what we're doing at our different schools, sharing worksheets and ideas. There's never time to do this.”
While the program will directly benefit teachers and their classrooms, the wider implications of the initiative are quite clear as well.
“There's very little Computer Science education in schools right now,” notes Arthur Simon, a computer science teacher at Lowell High School. “I was privileged to be invited to Facebook headquarters because they want to talk about high school computer science. We live in the town where it's ground zero. It's really exciting right now. I think teaching programming is easier than it's ever been.”
With the surge in demand for programmers, Freedman notes that there is a general desire to “embed more programming in the high schools so they can hire more students.”
“It's perfect timing when the district wants it to be so kids don't necessarily have to go to college,” Singer points out. “We're all kind of sharing that vision that a High School degree is worth something.”
Hack Reactor and Mission Bit have shown the power of a dynamic space for teaching cutting edge skills. With this program, some of what they offer may find its way into high school classrooms.