Computer science professionals are lending their skills as mentors and teachers to Corner Canyon’s students. Thanks to the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools program, or TEALS, three Microsoft employees — who also happen to be parents of Corner Canyon students — are teaching sophomores, juniors and seniors the basic building blocks of computer programming.
“We are trying to introduce concepts of computer science, but do it in a fun way,” says Ken Walters, a Corner Canyon parent and employee of Microsoft who has taught his TEALS class for two years.
Students learn about computer programming by designing their own video games. Over the course of the program, students build a Mario game, hangman game, pawn and space invader games, and then their final project is to build whatever they want to play on their own.
The program, and its curriculum, was initially designed by a Microsoft employee who proposed that employees volunteer their time to teach the course — to students and a teacher — for two years, at which point, the teacher will take over. Corner Canyon is one of two schools in Utah to utilize the program.
“I love it,” Walters says. “I was looking for a way to volunteer in school, and for me, it was a great fit.”
Corner Canyon has organized the schedule so TEALS classes take place during the first period. That way, the professionals can be finished teaching their class by 9:20 a.m. and be at work by 9:45 a.m. It’s hard work to make lesson plans and grade projects, Walters says, but worth it when he sees his students improve, or even decide they’d like to pursue computer programming as a career.
So far, students have built a word processor, battle games, mazes and puzzles as their final projects — but even better, Walters says, they’ve gained a solid basic understanding of an employment field that has a world of options.