Change won’t happen if people don’t make it happen…at least it won’t happen quickly. 

We all want the best for our students and the press for representation is huge. People who look and share experiences like our students need to be seen by our students. Our kids need to see “themselves” in the field. What happens when the options for inspiration are VERY few? Someone needs to step forward, even if they need to do it scared. 

My students are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. Our school and culture are very involved and shaped by the Deaf community. Favorite actors include Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, and Millie Simmons. Favorite social media accounts include Melmira, Savvy ASL, The Daily Moth. We watch and use STEM signs and Atomic Hands for science lessons…but where do they see Deaf people in computer science? People who use ASL as their primary language, people who don’t depend on their ears for much of anything? The representation is sparse to say the least. 

As a Deaf CS teacher, I’ve searched for representation in the professional field of CS…and it’s just not there. 

My personality has always naturally been that of a follower; give me instructions and I’ll produce something awesome, but don’t ask me to be inventive. I’m not a game changer, I’m a player who follows the rules. Until now… 

When I received an email asking me if I’d mind being nominated to be a CSTA Equity Fellow, my gut reaction was “no thanks, pick someone else.”  A conversation with some of my 12th grade students got me thinking “why not?” “who else could they ask?” “What if everyone else says no?” 

So my response went something like this “if you’re sure there’s no one else better suited, I’d be honored to accept the nomination.” 

Well, one thing led to another, and now we’re nearing the end of our official fellowship year. 

The collaboration and teamwork has helped me improve the quality of the materials I present to my students…but a greater change has also occurred. 

Now, when my students ask me “should I try out for the school play?” or “do you think I should sign up for Battle of the Books?” I tell them, “if not you? Who? Give it a try. You’ll never know if it was fun unless you try. It’s okay to do it, and to do it scared,” I explain to them that there is a difference between that gut feeling that says “NO!!!” and the one that says “ummmmmm, maybe???”  Follow the “maybe,” and only follow the “NO” if you know it could end up going well. I also remind them that it’s good to set boundaries; a “yes, under these conditions” is better for everyone.  

Subsequently, I said “sure if there’s no one else better suited” to being a coach of our middle school’s Battle of the Books team…and we made it to Nationals.  We did it scared (and we rocked it). 

Who knows, maybe the representation my future students will aspire to be in the field of CS is sitting in my classroom today…maybe they’ll “do it scared” and become a world changer.  I sure hope so.

About the Author
Headshot of Beth Kimball

Beth Kimball is in her tenth year teaching at Indiana School for the Deaf. She currently teaches middle school science and high school dual-credit science courses. Previously she led a webinar for teachers of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, hosted by AccessCSforAll on how to make CS curriculum accessible for their students. Always a learner, Beth is constantly acquiring new skills. (Current) hobbies include: reading, fixing bicycles, Rubik’s Cubes, and True Crime books/TV shows.