“Since starting my journey as an educator four years ago, I’ve taught almost exclusively marginalized communities. I fought to become a full-time public school teacher because I see computer science as a way of positively impacting underserved communities.”
“I knew I had to teach computer science to students in my community after working as a developer and project manager in digital publishing for ten years,” shared CSTA Equity Fellow Eric Foster, a CS Teacher for grades 10-12, at George Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn, New York. “Since starting my journey as an educator four years ago, I’ve taught almost exclusively marginalized communities. I fought to become a full-time public school teacher because I see computer science as a way of positively impacting underserved communities.”
Foster uses computer science to raise students’ aspirations and equip them with the skills and mindset to succeed. He teachers problem-solving skills that apply to any industry. Outside of the classroom, Foster curates experiences that show the attainability of computer science careers. He does this in an environment that affirms the value of and empowers his students.
“I define equity within teaching through empowerment,” continued Foster. “As a Black man, I understand how historically systemic racism has prevented people of color and women from life-changing opportunities. I also recognize how the lack of resources, role models, and encouragement may cause students to feel intimidated by computer science.”
“When I speak to my class of Black and Latinx students about inequities, I emphasize their value in my classroom despite what they may perceive from society,” said Foster. “There seems to be a limited sense of self-expression and self-advocacy with my students. I believe this is the result of traditional classroom culture over their educational years.”
In the classroom, Foster attempts to connect concepts through cultural references without pandering. “I want to open my classroom and the students within it,” said Foster. “I want them to think outside of the box and not be hesitant in expressing themselves. I’m not afraid to embarrass myself for the sake of education. I use satire, dated pop culture references, and memes within my practice. On light instruction days, I may try to learn the latest social dance and, if possible, connect it to a computer science concept. I understand the benefits of students learning from teachers they can identify with.”
“In 2019. I started my class by showing a slide with pictures of the founders of Twitter, Snapchat, and Discord,” shared Foster. “My students were shocked that all of the founders were billionaires and pointed out they were all ‘white dudes.’ I shifted the conversation to the possibility of using computer science to create a company worth billions while also addressing the need for more founders who are women and people of color.”
Foster builds trust with his students by facilitating discussions on important social issues, valuing student perspectives, creating opportunities for them to tell their stories and be heard, and investing in their success. “Equity is positioning students for success,” said Foster. “For me, that means finding relevant learning experiences and opportunities outside of the classroom.”
Foster applied to become a CSTA Equity Fellow to learn how to better connect with the young Black women he teachers. Through the fellowship, he’s gained new perspectives and strategies for connecting with this group and other marginalized groups.
You can learn more about Foster, this year’s cohort, and the CSTA Equity Fellowship program here.