Ira Ehrlich is a CS advocate who has been an elementary technology and STEM educator in the Los Angeles area for over 30 years before relocating to Northern California. He’s thrilled to have recently joined us as a CSTA+ member to find community and connections in the CS field. Learn more about Ira on his LinkedIn profile, or feel free to reach out to him at STEMteacher4ever@gmail.com.
How have you been navigating the pandemic with a shift to online learning?
I’ve been able to navigate the change reasonably well. The M.A. in Educational Technology I completed 20 years ago was a blended learning program that consisted of both in-person and online courses. Ever since that period, I have been a big fan of remote learning. I am a project-based learner, and with the recent shift to online teaching, it was a natural transition!
Ira, you shared with CSTA that you left your CS teaching role as you weren’t comfortable teaching in-person for the fall with COVD-19. Can you share your decision process?
I was getting ready to begin the new school year as a K-5 teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. About a week before classes started, teachers were informed that all instruction would occur with us on campus and the students at home. My request to continue to teach remotely was not approved by the school administration, even though I had demonstrated that I have the expertise and equipment to do. Placing my health as a top priority, I decided that working on campus was too risky. I resigned before the start of school.
Since then, several months have gone by. Initially, I was sad and disappointed at what had transpired. My sense of identity was that of a life-long educator. Now that it’s the beginning of November, my decision feels more and more like a blessing in disguise. The phrase “When one door closes, another one opens” will become true soon. It feels like now is the opportunity to reinvent me. Looking back, perhaps those 30 years teaching in the classroom were stepping stones toward something bigger and better!
What would be an ideal work situation for you?
I’m open to almost any new opportunity. The idea of starting my own nonprofit also seems appealing as it aligns with my passion for STEM and would extend my skillset in a new industry. While I’m unsure of what that future would look like, I’m leaning into the excitement of the prospect. Ideally, I’d like to merge my love of the outdoors with my passion for teaching STEM. How exciting it will be to inspire and empower others through STEM in a new fashion!
What emotions have you experienced since leaving, if you feel comfortable sharing?
There has been a significant shift from the sadness (of leaving what I know and is comfortable) to one of optimism (the excitement and energy of exploring new ideas and meeting new educators). I have set a goal of doing one hour of professional development every day. Thanks to the abundance of webinars and opportunities with CSTA and other organizations, such as ISTE, it has been easy to learn and invest in me.
How would your previous students describe you?
My prior students would describe me as lively, energetic, and full of dad jokes. Parents have told me I could go into stand-up comedy, but my strength is with puns and improvised jokes based on the environment. We must keep a sense of humor regardless of the stressful times currently. (I was going to mention during the interview that my wristwatch had stopped . . . but it didn’t seem like the right time!)
How are you staying involved in the CS community?
My involvement with the CS community has been through my daily continuing education. I’ve always wanted to spend more time learning CS beyond my experience teaching Scratch and Code.org lessons. While trying to learn Python, I discovered CSTA. Soon after that, I decided to join this organization to find like-minded people. It has been so great to join this community and develop new CS skills.
As a new member of CSTA, what has been the most unexpected experience you have encountered?
The first thing that surprised me was that we have computer science standards. Who knew? (Not me!) I was also pleasantly surprised when I learned how many non-CS educated folks (like me) are STEM educators and feel part of the community at CSTA. I appreciate the CSTA staff and its members.
How are you holding space for optimism for CS during these difficult times for teachers?
With the ongoing pandemic, there is so much development in the biotech industry and changes in the way people work. I’m feeling very optimistic about the field of CS. With so much new information and the new normals we’re experiencing, the area of CS and CS education is incredibly essential for critical thinking in the year 2020 and beyond.
What would you want to share with our audience?
My advice is to be curious and open to involvement in the CS community. If in doubt, just show up to a meeting of any CSTA chapter and attend some webinars. There are lots of opportunities posted on the calendar page. See what works for you and keep attending where you feel comfortable.