Power of Public: Teaching every child to crack the code of computer science

Jose Guevara recruited players from his girls soccer team to join his AP computer science principles class at Northside High. HISD will double the number of computer science-certified teachers over the next two academic years and expand advanced computer science courses to all 38 high schools by the end of this year.

Editor’s Note: February 27 through March 3 is Texas Public Schools Week, and we are celebrating by sharing personal stories throughout HISD on how public education is helping students succeed. Tweet at us @HoustonISD and share how public education is positive force in you or your student’s life, using the hashtag #PowerofPublic.

Here’s a tip for schools hoping to get more female representation in computer programming classes: Make sure your computer science teacher is also the girls soccer coach.

“I started talking to my students on the team about computer programming — and really I talk to everyone — so that definitely helped in recruiting girls to the class,” said Jose Guevara, who teaches AP computer science principles at Northside High.

Girls make up more than 50 percent of the enrollment in his class, and Guevara said they bring a high level of participation and help lead the discussions — which are often centered on real-world applications of what used to be very abstract concepts.

“The new tools that are available to our students have been so helpful. From the first class, they can program an app or a game, and they can actually open it on their cellphones,” Guevara said. “Now you can code for 20 minutes and see a result.”

Junior Karolina Tovar, who dreams of continuing her studies at MIT to become a software engineer, said it was watching her uncle fix computers, radios, and other hardware that got her interested in technology and learning the fundamentals of programming.

“I know companies like Google are really fun and rewarding places to work,” she said. “And I know companies will need more and more software engineers, because technology is taking over the world.”

So what about the intimidation factor in diving into a traditionally male-dominated area of study? Senior Neida Martinez said it’s important that more women consider it.

“What better way to advance the world than to educate women and help them have a foot in the race?” she said. “It’s very easy to get more scholarship opportunities in this area, and you’re likely to get a full ride. So why not give it a chance?”

Read more stories that feature the power of public education in HISD