Posted by Kenz Mangan on Mar 03, 2023
We recently interviewed Art Lopez (he, him, his), a retired CS teacher and the current project manager for Coding Our Future Project for CREATE at the University of California, San Diego.
What is your name, preferred pronouns, title, and place of employment?
My name is Art Lopez (he, him, his). I was the District TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) for Computer Science and also taught AP Computer Science Courses at Sweetwater High School for the Sweetwater Union High School District for 36 years; I recently retired, and I am now the project manager for the Coding Our Future Project for CREATE at the University of California, San Diego.
What’s your favorite CS experience (e.g. teaching, research, other experience related to CS)?
Some of my favorite CS experiences have been working with my colleagues at UC San Diego, the National Science Foundation, and the College Board as a Pilot Instructor and Contributor for the AP Computer Science Principles course. This led to my becoming the district TOSA for computer science for my district and led efforts to provide computer science education courses and training for the students and teachers.
When I first started, there were zero CS courses taught at 13 high schools and 11 middle schools with a student population of 42,000 students along the border of San Diego; many of our students are in the reduced lunch program, English Learners, and are from diverse backgrounds. I also was asked to join the CSAwesome RPP Team with the intent of providing equity inclusion practices for teaching underserved and underrepresented students taking the AP CS A course. Due to these experiences, when I retired, 12 out of the 13 high schools and 6 out of the 12 middle schools were offering computer science courses.
With my colleagues at UC San Diego, I am now working on helping to create national open-source and free computer science curriculum units for helping elementary teachers teach computer science to students in grades 3 – 5; I am also helping to create a Spanish version of the curriculum for Spanish immersion programs and English Learners. This has been an incredible and amazing experience and opportunity to be able to participate in. And last but not least, this past year, with some of my CSTA colleagues, I also helped launch the CSTA Latin-X Virtual community after several years of trying to do this; that was really special for me as well.
How long have you been involved in the CSTA?
When I first started learning about the importance of computer science education courses for students in grades K-12, I met and started working with my colleagues at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and UC San Diego. Dr. Beth Simon, who was creating a pilot course for AP CSP at that time, and Dr. Diane Baxter, Educational Director for the San Diego Supercomputer Center, encouraged me to get involved in this project for creating a national CS course with the intent to broaden participation of underserved and underrepresented groups in computer science and provide equity access opportunities for all students to learn about computer science in grades K-12.
Diane introduced me to the CSTA San Diego Chapter as the San Diego Supercomputer Center was a partner and held the meetings at their center. I started getting involved with CSTA – San Diego as it provided a network for computer science educators/teachers seeking best practices and curricula for the community. I became involved, participated, and hopefully contributed to the CSTA community by being a chapter leader and serving on the Board of Directors.
What motivates you to be involved with CSTA?
I first got involved with computer science education as I was interested in the broadening of participation of underserved and underrepresented groups in computer science, which included women, persons of color, students of learning differences, English Learners, LGTBQ learners, and all other subgroups that fit within this category. I wanted to provide equity access and opportunities so that ALL students can take computer science education courses. I was interested in promoting this view and working with other computer science educators that are like-minded. CSTA provided a national organization that also had the same goals and vision and offered the opportunity to connect and promote this nationally.
What have you learned that’s most interesting to you either about the CSTA or K-12 CS Education?
I have learned that there are so many incredibly talented and amazing people involved in CSTA and K-12 CS Education that are driven by providing high quality, engaging, rigorous, and ALL-inclusive computer science curriculum and projects to help teach our children the importance of computer science education.
What do you hope for CS education in the future? How do you believe CSTA will help in achieving this?
I hope that our country and the world recognize the importance and need for our children to learn about computer science for the success of all of their future endeavors. As my good friend and colleague, Dr. Beth Simon, stated, “computer science education is the new 4th R”. I hope that CSTA can help teachers, regardless of their background, the ability to teach computer science to every child/student in every grade of K-12 with professional development, equity inclusion, projects, and CS curriculum offerings. I also hope that we increase the number of underserved and underrepresented groups of students, i.e., women, children of color, and all other subgroups, to take CS courses. I hope CSTA can also help with a national push of making computer science a required graduating requirement in all 50 states.
What else would you like to add that might be interesting to readers about you, your commitment to CSTA, or perhaps why others should also be interested in becoming involved?
I have been interested and involved in providing equity access and opportunities for ALL children to take computer science education courses in grades K-12; I have participated and been involved in many projects that have equity inclusion practices in teaching computer science to students in these grades. Being able to network and meet so many other people that are interested in the same goals via CSTA has been incredibly rewarding; I feel very strongly that by volunteering and participating with CSTA, you have an intrinsic satisfaction and can say that you are striving to make the world a better place for our children. From a professional point of view, I do not think it gets much better than that.