The class is just about to start and students are seated and logging in to their laptops. It is early in the morning on the second week of school and this Microsoft TEALS class is full of young men, and one young woman, eager to learn more about computer science and technology. TEALS, which stands for Technology Education and Literacy for Students, is typically a male-filled classroom taught by one main teacher, Mr. Young, and 4 volunteer teachers who rotate throughout the week. This is only the second year for this particular course at Cornerstone Health + Technology High School, but it is the first year they have had a female teacher’s assistant in the class, and the first year there has been a female student attending the class as well.

Mr. Young explains how the TEALS program came to be. “Kevin Wang, from Microsoft, created the TEALS program as a way to help youth learn computer science and the industries that include that knowledge. Later, Microsoft started a “Train the Trainer” model where they instruct teachers in the best ways to teach computer science.” He strolls through the classroom, proudly showing the work each student is doing as they begin their next project. “Each day starts with a ‘Do Now’ introduction of a new topic related to computer science. Then the students complete a project in class – sometimes it is brief and other times the project may take multiple days. The class is very hands-on and interactive so the students are able to show proficiency and feel accomplished.”

“Most of the students are inquisitive and enjoy problem-solving,” Mr. Young adds. “They all love completing programs and showing off amazing things they have crafted. It amazes me how each student’s individual creativity still shines through. Programming is really very creative, and is an outlet for students who may not be musically or artistically inclined. It is just a non-traditional mode of creation.”

Cornerstone Charter SchoolsParna, the teacher’s assistant, adds some thoughts about her experience with Cornerstone and the TEALS class. “Here it is not normal to have females in the technology industry, but in India, where I am from, it is very common. Many women love math and science and go into fields like this.” 

Parna stumbled upon the volunteer teaching opportunity while on the Microsoft website and thought it would be perfect for her. She wants to inspire a young generation to be excellent and to help expand the technology field. “Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Cars are both growing fields right now and that is very exciting.” Additionally, she finds satisfaction being able to encourage more female involvement in the growing technology industries, and hopes to see more female students in the class as it continues to grow.

Though the TEALS class only offers training in the first two levels of programming right now, Mr. Young hopes to expand into advanced level classes and add a course that leads directly to IT certification to give students a stepping stone to a successful career in the field of technology. Parna is passionate about seeing more women enter the field: “Girls should know this isn’t just a ‘boys’ thing at all! Many women are doing this all over the world and they are very good at it.”