Meet 2019-20 CSTA Equity Fellow Jacqueline Corricelli.
In today’s CSTA Equity Fellow Spotlight, we’d like you to meet Jacqueline Corricelli, a computer science teacher at Conrad High School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Through her project, Jacqueline is working to implement SCRIPT training in her school district, with an expansion to all other districts, to align CS K-12 throughout the state of Connecticut. Later this week, she’ll be sharing an update on her project.
Five Questions with Jacqueline Corricelli
What do you hope to achieve as a CSTA Equity Fellow?
The amount of energy and just positivity in the room is just amazing. I really hope that we can channel that energy to influence change to leave something that will help other teachers to feel more inspired or prepared to teach computer science and to help more students to get this experience in their high schools.
Can you describe how you’ve disrupted inequities in your classroom?
When I think back to what was missing in computer science when I was in high school and college, the space did not seem safe to me. I felt like I couldn’t join in on the conversations that were happening – they were really connected to a lot of terminology. As a high school student, not having a lot of connection to technology, that frightened me and made it seem a little off-putting. The three ways that I try to make equity happen in the classroom is to make it a safe space, meaning I want my classroom to be inviting, students to feel welcomed. I want to be the type of room that if I was a high school student I’d want to walk into. So, jargon, I try to keep that a minimum.
How did you get involved in teaching computer science?
I started teaching computer science about seven years ago. I started with AP Computer Science A. My background was from Raytheon. I started, prior to teaching, as a systems engineer at Raytheon but I hadn’t taken a computer science course yet. So I took those courses while working at Raytheon as an engineer in C++. Java was a natural extension of C++ both being object-oriented design so I felt comfortable starting with AP Computer Science A. I then became a phase two pilot instructor for AP computer science principles that was in the summer of 2013. I went to Las Vegas and learned from Hadi Partovi about issues in terms of equity. I felt that I was one of the statistics we were looking to pull in the classroom and I had this sudden realization that I had missed that boat and I wanted to make that right for my students so that they would have experiences in high school that I didn’t have the opportunity to have. After AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A, we’ve just been focusing on growing the program as much as possible and getting as many students as possible to take those courses so that, again, they can have amazing computer science experiences and move on to make our world a better place.
What does equity in CS mean to you?
Equity in computer science means that students are not making decisions to take or not take computer science based on fear. They’re making choices to take computer science because they have the knowledge that it will change our world and they’re making choices to not take computer science because they’ve had experiences enough with computer science that they can make a good choice. It means that when I look in the classroom, my population of students in the classroom is representative of the population of our country and our world and specifically in my school district. It’s really important, that because computer science is the tool of the future, that the people who are using that tool represent that tool so more problems can be solved. We can work together to make our world a better place.
Why should others consider teaching computer science?
It is a wonderful way to change the world. It is an extremely authentic way to give students a tool that they can create and influence their world around them, leave something behind that will always be there, and it is also a really neat way for students of any discipline to better understand and appreciate and love that discipline. If a student wants to go into the medical field, for example, a computer would be a tool for them to help and save more lives, or help to understand a problem in a better or unique way. If they want to go into art, they can create art with a computer that they couldn’t create without a computer. If they want to go into music or mathematics or social sciences it’s the same thing. No matter what that student’s passion is, computer science gives them a way to channel that passion and further explore it in a really unique way.