Daa’iyah Suad Cooke is in her seventh year of teaching and her eleventh year in the education field. She has taught computer science at Frederick High School in Frederick, MD, since 2021, and she is passionate about inspiring students, instilling confidence, and helping them find their love of computer science. She holds a bachelor’s degree in information systems, with a business administration minor, from the University of Maryland Global Campus, and a master’s degree in management of information technology from Hood College. Daa’iyah manages her school’s Robotics Club, Python Club and Computer Science Honors Society, and she serves as the vice president of the Technology and Engineering Educators Association of Maryland.

A core principle in Daa’iyah’s teaching is her belief that every student deserves an education plan individually tailored to their unique strengths and needs. With every new class she encounters, she makes sure to spend time getting to know each student, assessing their interests, their strengths and weaknesses, and the ways they naturally think and learn. Then she works hard to identify any accommodations that will support their success, whether that’s chunking assignments, allowing them to test verbally rather than in written assignments, incorporating hands-on activities, or providing language accommodations to English-language learners.

In last year’s Foundations of Computer Science class, one of Daa’iyah’s ELL students was severely struggling with the class. After receiving a D in the first term, he told Daa’iyah that he could not succeed in the class and had therefore decided to stop doing the work. Determined not to let this student fall through the cracks, Daa’iyah worked closely with him to help him succeed. Together, they used sentence starters, color coding, and more chunked-out instructions, and she allowed him to deliver his presentations just to her (rather than to the whole class) to reduce his fear of judgment from his peers. By the end of the second term, he earned a B in the class, and, Daa’yiah says, “he started to flourish in his programing and was really excited to show his progress.”

As this story illustrates, Daa’iyah holds a special place in her heart for English-language learners in computer science. She likes to remind ELL students that all students in CS courses are learning a new language—just as they are learning English! She collaborates with ELL teachers to share tips and techniques to support those students, and she makes a point of asking the students themselves what would be most helpful to them as they work to learn computer science. Carnegie Mellon University’s Python website offers options for students to learn in multiple languages, and Daa’iyah loves to use this tool to support her Spanish-speaking students. She also tries to incorporate visuals and videos wherever possible, to reduce the language barrier. “Many times, ELL students are overlooked because the expectation is lower,” Daa’iyah says. “But I believe that all students should be given the opportunity to perform challenging work.”

Daa’iyah can’t wait to dive into her CSTA Equity Fellowship, which she views as the perfect opportunity to improve the techniques and tools she uses with ELL and special education students. Whether this takes the form of developing new curriculum, professional development opportunities, or conference webinars, Daa’iyah is eager to bring what she learns back to her colleagues at Frederick High School. She’d also like to share that knowledge with educators who are new to teaching or are, like Daa’iyah herself, career changers.

Currently, Daa’iyah’s school only offers an Engineering class to English-language learners, and one of her goals for the fellowship is to help pilot a Foundations of Computer Science class for ELL students. She would like to develop a curriculum solution that encourages her school and others to offer a co-taught version of this class in collaboration with ELL teachers. If ELL students have access to this foundational computer science learning, they will be much better positioned to continue to higher-level classes in computer science and technology. She’d also like to explore options for professional development in translanguaging, which would enable teachers to ensure language equity in their classes.

“Our world is diverse,” Daa’iyah says, “and the classroom should represent that.”