Julie York has taught at South Portland High School in South Portland, ME, for more than a decade. Initially hired to teach video production, she has gone on to develop and teach a wide range of computer science and media electives, including Animation and Game Design, Digital Graphics, Advanced Technology, and Introduction to Computer Science. Community and joy are two main focuses for Julie, and she keeps representation, inclusion, involvement, creativity, passion, empathy, and diversity at the forefront of her planning and development. She is married and has two children. She also founded and continues to run two businesses for fans of anime and gaming in Maine, Weekend Anime and Games and PortConMaine.
Julie believes that all students (and all people) should have fair access to “explore, achieve, and create” within computer science. Before students can access the joy of computing, they first have to understand that they are welcome in computing spaces, and Julie constantly works toward that goal. She knows she’s succeeding when she hears her computing students say things like “I never realized I could do this” or “I never thought this was for me.”
Julie strives to build a safe environment at her school for her students and fellow faculty members, modeling her authentic self and encouraging others to do the same. For her, this requires being a perpetual learner—seeking feedback and ideas from peer groups, students, professional development opportunities, reading, partnerships, and more—and being willing to learn from her mistakes. She’s purposeful about seeking out learning opportunities that will help her address weak spots in her content knowledge and teaching practice. “I am very aware that, as a teacher, I have a lot of opportunity and a responsibility to help progress the idea that everyone deserves access,” says Julie. “Everyone deserves a chance at learning and exploring.”
As a neurodivergent person herself, she’s proud to seek out new ideas and opportunities so others can see that it’s possible for neurodivergent people to succeed in computer science. In her classes, Julie incorporates material, resources, and stories that represent people of color, queer people, neurodivergent people, and those from low socioeconomic status. She also strives to be transparent with her students about her own background and the biases she may be bringing to the material. While there may not be easy answers, Julie believes that she and her students should always be able to talk through the questions.
Julie does her best learning in community. She says, “My whole life has been about building communication and community, so I have a strong support network of people from a wide range of backgrounds.” At school, she listens to students, their family members, administration, and fellow teachers to incorporate their voices and feedback in her classes and her department, which she chairs.
Julie says, “Brainstorming with my colleagues is very important to me.” To help build connections among CS educators in her home state, Julie helped found CSTA Maine and remains a part of its leadership team. She regularly attends the annual conference for the Association of Computer Technology of Education of Maine (ACTEM), both to present her own work and to learn from the work of other CS teachers in her region. She works as an educational representative with Construct, a game-making program that helps bridge the gap between Scratch and more syntax-oriented programming. After her state’s department of education created the Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education (MOOSE) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Julie worked with them to develop a cross-curricular approach to teaching computer science in asynchronous settings.
As she begins her year as a CSTA Equity Fellow, Julie says, simply, “I want to listen. I want to grow.” When Julie completed her Exploring Computer Science (ECS) training in Colorado and Indiana, one of the best parts of her experience was hearing the stories of CS teachers from all across America. Just being part of a cohort of educators who shared the same interests was exhilarating. “The idea of a group of professionals all working together and coming up with strategies and practices that help my students and community is exactly what I hope for,” says Julie.
With Julie’s enthusiastic advocacy and support, her school recently brought the Strategic CSforALL Resource & Implementation Planning Tool (SCRIPT) framework to their CS planning process. Since then, she’s spent a lot of time thinking about what might be needed at every level and how it can scale up from there. In her time as a Fellow, Julie dreams of assembling a toolbox for equitable CS practice that would offer resources for every type of educator and classroom.
Julie’s eager to learn from her cohort and advance their shared cause of computer science for all. “Computer science is huge and awesome,” she says. “All students should have access to and experience with the creativity, joy, and purpose that comes with studying it.”