Posted by CSTA on May 09, 2023
Andrea Wilson Vazquez is the deputy director of the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, an organization that works to broaden participation in computing by challenging policies and practices that serve as barriers to diverse student engagement in computer science.
Andrea Wilson Vazquez is the deputy director of the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, an organization that works to broaden participation in computing by challenging policies and practices that serve as barriers to diverse student engagement in computer science. Before coming to ECEP, Andrea was the director of educator training and school partnerships at Code Savvy, a Minnesota-based nonprofit working to expand equitable and engaging K–12 computer science education.
Andrea has been a computer science teacher, a teacher for English language learners, and most recently an instructional coach at an alternative high school, where she helped teachers engage students with unique learning needs through maker and computer science education. She holds a BA in Spanish and global studies and an MA in ESL education. She is a CSTA CSforELs teacher leader and facilitator, as well as a co–principal investigator on the Coaching for Equity in Computer Science initiative.
Equity has always stood at the heart of Andrea’s work. As a CS coach, professional development provider, and teacher, she encourages other teachers and school leaders to center equity in all plans, ideas, and conversations. “We work together,” Andrea says, “toward interrupting and counteracting inequities, small and large, in ways that create equitable, sustainable change.”
Whether she’s helping colleagues to create new programs or making changes to existing ones, Andrea emphasizes finding and implementing the structures that will give every child the chance to develop their fullest potential. Tools like computer science equity audits can point up barriers in capacity, access, participation, and experience (i.e., the CAPE framework) and guide decisions to remove those barriers at every level.
Since her grad school days, when she got her master’s in ESL teaching, Andrea has maintained a particular focus on English language–learners. As a teacher leader and facilitator in training for CSTA’s CSforELs program, she has worked on designing AP courses specifically for bilingual students and English language learners. In collaboration with other teachers of AP Computer Science Principles, she developed, tested, and shared language-inclusive strategies like “building background knowledge, pair-and-share structures, sentence frames, specific vocabulary instruction, deconstructing sentences/prompts, and chunking text-heavy lessons.”
Lessons that included specific language scaffolds were found to be most engaging and accessible to English language learners. Andrea has been excited to witness CSforEL participants implementing those scaffolds and strategies in their classes after the conclusion of their professional development experiences. She also had the opportunity to perform an equity audit for the MobileCSP curriculum design team and recommend teaching strategies that would be more inclusive of English language learners.
Andrea constantly works to challenge preconceptions about who participates in computer science and who can use technology to be a creator. During her time at Code Savvy, she collaborated with a partner school district, Brooklyn Center Community Schools, to write a grant that would expand CS access in the district’s middle schools. Over the course of the grant project, students in grades 5–8 used micro:bits to create solutions to problems in their communities, heard from experts in the tech industry, and ultimately presented their work to their school. Andrea is excited to report that “over 95% [of participants expressed] interest in continuing to do more projects with micro:bits and coding.” The district won a second year of funding and plans to train a cohort of teachers and expand integration through more core classes.
“I am first and foremost a reflective practitioner and lead learner,” Andrea says, “a collaborator through and through.” As a CSTA Equity Fellow, one of her top priorities is to connect with the other members of her cohort.
Andrea hopes to share her own experience of fostering safe classroom spaces, and she’s excited to continue growing as an “authentic, inclusive, and effective” computer science coach and PD provider as she and the other Fellows support and learn from each other. “To join a cohort group of Equity Fellows with common vision and goals would be truly transformative, in terms of making strides towards developing advocacy pathways and training resources that could be shared and applied widely,” she observes.
As she heads into her fellowship, Andrea hopes to create equity-focused tools and coaching networks that can help computer science educators create change in their own classrooms, schools, and districts. She knows firsthand the value of working in the community with other equity-focused leaders in computer science education. Through the CSTA Equity Fellowship, she hopes both to find that community and to foster it for computer science educators around the country.
Above all, Andrea is passionate about the important role of educators in building equitable computer science learning experiences. In her years as a teacher, she has come to believe that “every conversation in education [is] a conversation about equity.”