Memoir of Equity Fellowship Experience
There is much to reflect upon as my time as a 2022 CSTA Equity Fellow draws to a close. A motivating factor that led me to apply was quite simply this — I was starting a new assignment in a newly designed virtual school with a Computer Science theme. While I was a big advocate in bringing Computer Science opportunities to my former school site, I felt a strong need in understanding how to weave computer science within instruction and was hoping for resources for this new thematic academy. Additionally, I knew that our K-12 span, Title 1 school would have a unique ability to create CS pathways beginning with our youngest learners. The lens of equity was important in the work I was hoping to achieve.
I initially thought my role as an Equity Fellow would be as a taker — I was going to learn and take back resources to my new school and community. As educators this is quite common in professional development, we take the knowledge we gain and implement strategies and lessons in the classroom. But my time as an Equity Fellow has been so much more than that — it has been about giving. It has been about CSTA giving us a voice in Computer Science education and thus in turn, empowering me and my fellows to give and contribute back into the Computer Science community in our own localities and on a national scale. Being an Equity Fellow is rooted in fellowship, encouraging and supporting others along the way in the great work being done for our disadvantaged and underrepresented communities across the states, and taking action. It has been about Allies and Teachers working in tandem with vision and diverse perspectives strengthening the advocacy of CS equity for our students across the nation!
On a personal note, where I started at that first virtual convening in October of 2022 is a very different me than where I am now in July of 2023. Receiving the news that I had been accepted as an Equity Fellow in the fall was such a high moment, that I didn’t quite know what it all meant but was so excited to be given this opportunity! After my Day 1 Convening, and all of the introductions had passed, I fangirled a bit — my fellows were doing such great work within the CS community! But I questioned my place in this CS space. I didn’t quite know at the time what I could actually contribute. It was a double whammy when I had to create a Flash Talk and then found there were project ideas to generate. The feeling of Imposter Syndrome took over (as best described by Equity Fellow Alumni Lili Mora, in her session titled Leaning on Each Other to Overcome CS Imposter Syndrome). However, as the year continued I was able to combat those feelings. Our leaders created a safe space where we could share ideas and put things into action. Anything we could imagine through the lens of CS and Equity, we could create and present which makes this fellowship unique and special. Time was provided for collaboration. Our fellowship time was one of celebration. Along the way, I began to feel more empowered and that I belonged. Because of this experience, I am pursuing my CS Authorization to teach K-12 Computer Science to continue the work in perhaps another capacity. I also feel more confident about the work centered around Equity in CS and the continued impact I can have on my community. I share my story because working through emotions was part of my process and uncomfortable at times, but also so rewarding as I reflect on how I have grown through this fellowship.
Summary of Impact
The impact of this fellowship reverberates as it drives a continuous set of new ideas and advocacy. The work each of us was doing prior to fellowship within our individual space, collectively has allowed us to have an amplified voice in this fellowship with a much larger reach and stretch. What I have especially appreciated is that content created comes from those who have first-hand knowledge of being in schools and working with students, setting up clubs, working with communities and/or even within legislation! Content comes from those in the trenches, and therefore every presentation and project becomes just that much more valuable. For example, I learned so much about inclusivity from a Special Education perspective through my fellows that I hope to not only put into practice, but share with others. Collaboration has resulted in unique perspectives coming together to create material that is meaningful for others. We are leading the charge for our children in CS Education!
Why others should apply
Some of you may be reading this article and contemplating if applying to be an Equity Fellow is right for you, and I am encouraging you with a resounding yes, please apply! You can only grow from this experience and your voice and perspective matters. Ms. Shaina Glass, CSTA Director of Education, is an advocate for all, nudging along the way and helping you build confidence in finding yourself within the grander CS space! She sees more in you than you might see in yourself. Dr. Bashir is a quiet force — a listener, reading to prompt you with questions that lead to new perspectives. They have led this year by example, empowering us to lead the CS charge, changing futures and trajectory for our students in CS Education and opening up CS pathways for those most underrepresented. There are also wonderful mentors and others on the team who support and scaffold. Traveling to sites for convenings, guest speakers with words of inspiration and the relationships you build with others across the country make the experience that much more impactful! The work in CS education forges ahead and if not you, then who?
About the Author
Angela Chavez is a teacher at LAUSD’s Computer Science Virtual Academy – the first of its kind in her district! She is a student advocate who believes that quality education begins with a strong understanding of how children learn and application of student-centered practices. This also means being transformative in the classroom and responsive to student needs. Hence her journey into computer science education and the need to bridge the divide for underrepresented populations within her community. Code.org was her beginning, with continued professional development through the Infosys Pathfinders Institute and currently LAUSD’s inaugural CS Cadre. She serves as a Girls Who Code Club facilitator, instilling a love of CS and empowering her students to become the next CS leaders as they continue on their educational pathway. She was a 2020 California finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and 2021 LAUSD Teacher of the Year.