Meet 2019-20 CSTA Equity Fellow Shanti Coaston.
In today’s CSTA Equity Fellow Spotlight, we’d like you to meet Shanti Coaston, a CS Teacher at Shaw High School in East Cleveland, Ohio. For her project, Shanti’s goal is to provide professional development for CS educators using the Warm Demander strategy for working with urban youth in order to increase CS equity. She’ll be sharing an update on her project next week.
Five Questions with Shanti Coaston
What do you hope to achieve as a CSTA Equity Fellow?
What I want to achieve as a CSTA Equity Fellow is to bring more, not just diversity, but bring more young ladies and students of color, but especially students with disabilities into computer science. I want to make sure that we’re able to level the playing field when it comes to learning CS and break down the barrier that computer science is only for students that have the skill or that the AP is only for students that are gifted or are considered an honors student, and that an AP course can be for anyone. I also want to begin to work with teachers in encouraging our students to take the courses and to allow them to take the courses and give them that positive reinforcement that the students need to be successful.
Can you describe how you’ve disrupted inequities in your classroom?
I have disrupted a lot of inequities in my classroom. The biggest one is making sure that students with disabilities are in my room. Like I said, I have certain spots for them. I’ve also disrupted by adding different courses like game design and cybersecurity, making sure that I do have girls in the class, I make sure that students, maybe they aren’t the greatest students, but they have the interest, I make sure that they’re in there. I also disrupt it by having students in competitions, hack-a-thons, we go to CS competitions, college tours, we bring guest speakers in, we do job shadowing, and this year we actually have student help desks. So that’s how I’m disrupting CS, not in just the classroom, but Northeast Ohio as well.
How did you get involved in teaching computer science?
I began teaching computer science, I was actually, tapped to do computer science, I like to use the word, “voluntold”, it was the last couple days of school and I was asked, “Would you be interested in teaching computer science,” and I said, “Sure, I have no training.” I met with the superintendent on Friday, and she said, “on Monday you will start your training.” And that was actually summer, so my first week of summer break I was actually in the class learning computer science. And they allowed me to teach one class and I still had my special education courses that I had to teach, and it was such a success that they allowed me to then go ahead and take another summer course to teach AP Computer Science Principles. And I went from one CS class to four and now I’m at six and I’m now teaching computer science full time and I’m no longer solely an Intervention Specialist. But I do require that I have at least 20% of my class to be students with an IUP.
What does equity in CS mean to you?
Equity in CS means that there’s access for everybody. Everybody has an opportunity. The big word for me is opportunity and exposure. If our students are given an opportunity to experience computer science, and they’re given that exposure to computer science, then they’re allowed to make that decision, is that something they want to do? In not only taking a computer science course but also teaches them the ability to think and problem solve and that’s a soft skill that maybe indirectly comes from a computer science course.
Why should others consider teaching computer science?
People should consider teaching computer science because it’s just a different way of thinking, and it’s more hands-on. Computer science just allows for different people to do different things in a different way. Computer science to me is universal. It can be applied in English, math, science, it can be applied as a therapeutic aspect. It allows people who are maybe not considered traditional to find their place, and I think that’s why people should consider computer science. And also to me, it gives people a voice that may have not thought they had one, and that’s why I think people should teach computer science.