Posted by CSTA on May 22, 2023
“I try my best to help erase the stereotypes and biases that females and people of color face in computer science,” Tonya says. She helps her students believe in (and build) a diverse CS future that offers opportunity to everyone.
Tonya Coats is a technology curriculum coordinator (TOSA) with Jurupa Unified School District in Riverside County, CA. With over twenty years of experience as a K–6 educator in Southern California, Tonya has a particular interest in computer science and maker-based learning. She holds a BA in computer information systems and an MA in instructional technology from California State University, San Bernardino. Tonya was a 2022 CSTA Teaching Excellence honorable mention recipient, a 2023 micro:bit Champion, and she currently serves on the board of directors for Inland Area CUE (IACUE), a regional affiliate of Computer-Using Educators (CUE).
As a veteran elementary school teacher, Tonya is a tireless advocate for starting kids on their computer science journeys in the early grades. Through exposure to the joys of computer science at a young age, students can build a strong interest in the field and discover the excitement and confidence that comes from using CS to solve real-world problems. Tonya notes that she wants to give her kids the chance “to achieve successes and failures in computer science.” When students are surrounded by an environment of support, every encounter with computer science—whether it leads to the outcome the student hoped for or not—is an opportunity to learn.
“I try my best to help erase the stereotypes and biases that females and people of color face in computer science,” Tonya says. She helps her students believe in (and build) a diverse CS future that offers opportunity to everyone. As part of this work, she facilitates student participation in exciting educational conferences and student showcases, including CUE, California IT in Education (CITE), micro:bit’s do your :bit challenge, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Coolest Projects. Besides appearing at these events, her students’ work has been featured in magazines and online articles, and Tonya hopes that these opportunities can help other students from marginalized populations envision what’s possible with computer science. She’s proud to encourage each of her female students “to see themselves as the next woman inventor or trailblazing computer scientist.”
Tonya’s work requires her to stay abreast of the latest computer science technology, training, and professional development opportunities. She wants to give her best to every student in her district, identifying and meeting individual student needs to ensure that they have the chance to thrive in the field of computer science. To achieve that goal, she’s perpetually striving to expand her knowledge base so that she can share it with educators and students in her district.
Last year Tonya joined the Inland Empire micro:bit Personal Learning Network, a group that connects educators and helps them to share strategies for teaching block coding and physical computing. This community of support helps Tonya engage with policy makers and education leaders to promote equity in computer science. In her time with this PLN, Tonya says, “I have learned [that] to change inequities in computer science, it takes guidance, ideas, inspiration, support, and new perspectives from a wide variety of people and practitioners.”
As a CSTA Equity Fellow, Tonya is excited to expand her community of justice-focused educators. “Being around like-minded individuals will help give me the opportunity to make valuable connections, and to gain confidence and a skill set to help me make meaningful change,” she says. She hopes in particular to grow as an activist for equity in computer science, with the long-term goal of advocating for mandatory computer science–related education in her district and state.
Tonya brings to this fellowship a passion for elementary computer science education. She says, “It’s important for students to develop a passion for computer science to maintain intrinsic motivation to continue to learn and grow in this field.” In her time as a Fellow, she dreams of creating a network of professionals who can help to guide students through their computer science journey from the earliest days through graduation and beyond. She believes that mentorship is vital at all levels of learning, and she notes, “The love [my students] have for CS instruction motivates me to always go above and beyond for them.”