Teaching Computer Science To High School Students On The Way To Work

Last year I posted an almost identical title and the result is that about half of the software engineers working in the TEALS program in NYC were recruited from this blog. That makes me feel great and I would like to thank those 20 or so software engineers who read that blog post and went through the entire TEALS onboarding process and are now in a high school classroom teaching CS.

Here is a quick reminder of how TEALS works. A high school decides they want CS in their curriculum. They decide if they want an Intro to CS or an AP CS class or both. The school selects some of their teachers to formally teach this class. Those teachers are then paired with software engineers who volunteer their time (usually twice a week, first period, on their way to work) to actually teach the class. The pairing of the working software engineer and the professional teacher is the genius of the TEALS program. It is a hack on the system that gets the software engineer, the subject matter expert, into the classroom without having to deal with teacher credentialing. It also means the software engineer can deliver the lessons without having to deal with classroom management, homework, testing, etc. And, most importantly, in most cases the professional teacher who is paired with the software engineer is able to teach the class on their own after a couple years of pair teaching the class with the software engineer.

Here are some facts and figures on TEALS in NYC:

TEALS partnered with 9 high schools in NYC in 2013-2014, serving nearly 300 students.
40 NYC volunteers from 30+ companies including Google, Etsy, NYTimes, Kickstarter, Yext and Amplify.
Based on our 1st semester data:
Before the course, 87% of TEALS NYC students reported they were not proficient in any programming language.
After the 1-semester intro course, 90% of TEALS NYC students reported they felt they had average or above average programming skills.
All or almost all partner schools will return, half of them adding a 2nd course
Blog Post from one of our NYC schools about TEALS: http://www.ewsis.org/tealsk12

I love the TEALS program and our non-profit, CSNYC, is helping the TEALS program expand in NYC by providing financial and other assistance.  We hope to significantly grow the number of students and high schools in NYC that are participating in TEALS and so we need another 40+ software engineers to volunteer. If you are so inclined, well thank you, and here is how to learn more:

Info Session #1: Tuesday 4/15 @ Relay GSE – http://teals-nyc-relay.eventbrite.com/

Info Session #2: Thursday 4/24 @ Microsoft – http://teals-nyc-msft.eventbrite.com/

Volunteer Info: tealsk12.org/volunteers

Volunteer Application: tealsk12.org/apply

I know there are a lot of software engineers in NYC who read this blog. I am very grateful for all that you do for the companies you work for (including many, maybe all, NYC based USV portfolio companies). So it’s hard to ask you to do even more. But I can promise you this. Teaching kids to code is rewarding. It is important. It makes me feel good. And I think it will make you feel good too.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    What a great follow-up blog post. Nice to hear it’s working out. And the teacher-volunteer pairing is brilliant. Thinking about other disciplines where this could work…hmm…

    1. Matt A. Myers

      They should pair programmers together! We could call it Pair Programming!

      1. William Mougayar

        That’s happening in agile all the time 😉

        1. JimHirshfield

          He was joking. Take it from one who knows a joker when he sees one.

          1. William Mougayar


          2. Matt A. Myers

            Do you see a smile on this face?

          3. JimHirshfield

            I do now.

        2. Guest

          William – in TO on Friday. Free for a java? Email me.

          1. William Mougayar

            James,I would have loved to, but am sick like a dog with a flu and not leaving the house this week. Totally wasted honestly. You don’t want to see me ;)Next time hopefully.

  2. JLM

    .Well played.It’s lovely to see a plan come together. Congratulations.In all directions — student, teacher, software engineer — nothing but positive energy.This is transformational leadership.JLM.

  3. Rob Underwood

    It’s been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to be a TEALS volunteer this school year at UCHS in Crown Heights. Watching the kids grow and grasp important CS and coding concepts is just great. I love going out there.As Fred says so eloquently this is a critical effort we all need to get behind, both here in NYC and around the country (and globe for that matter). The readers of this blog are busy people with a ton on their plate. But each of us need to each make time to do this. It’s just that important. We make time for the things we value. We need to make time for this.Relay GSE, and the Relay Engineering Team in particular, are thrilled to be hosting the first TEALS info session on 4/15. We look forward to welcoming you to Relay and continuing to support TEALS, CSNYC, and similar programs that #teachkidscode. We salute the work that folks like Fred, Evan Korth, Cindy Gao, Nathaniel Granor, and Kevin Wang are doing to make this happen.Finally, in Brooklyn we have had success working through and with local Community Boards (6 in particular) and Community Education Councils to advocate for more CS (e.g., more programs like TEALS) in schools. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to ping me — I think working with CBs and CECs is something that can be easily replicated throughout the city.No matter what else you do today, sign up for one of the info sessions and make plans to volunteer for TEALs or a similar program.

    1. fredwilson

      God bless you Rob. You are awesome

      1. Vijay Venkatesh

        Hi Rob,Love to participate and understand more at the 4/15 event. Is is possible to be matched with schools closer to home/work locations? Am in brooklyn also.Vijay

        1. Rob Underwood

          Specific to TEALS, the matching is up to Nathaniel Granor, the program manager of TEALS for NYC, but he does a great job of taking into consideration where people live and their overall commutes to/from work.Regarding Brooklyn more generally, feel free to e-mail me at runderwood5 (at) gmail (or runderwood -at- relay.edu) and we can discuss more what we’re doing to expand CS and coding in Brooklyn schools, in particular efforts through Community Board 6 and CEC / District 13.To his great credit, I know Fred has been personally visiting schools in neighborhoods of Brooklyn such as Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights to make this all happen. Pretty amazing, especially given his schedule. We can and should all make time to help out.

    2. William Mougayar

      +10. Wow

    3. Paul Sanwald

      well said, Rob. thanks for hosting, also!

  4. awaldstein

    Fred–I love this.I come from a family of teachers and scientists. I’ve shared this with a few of them around the country as a marker and a challenge to what can happen if you just do it.Nice!

  5. Emily Merkle

    How do the high schools accommodate programmatically for the CS class(es)? What requirement do they fill? What gets bumped?

    1. Paul Sanwald

      I believe it’s an elective at our school.

    2. Brian Papa

      At the iSchool it’s Period 0. Day starts at 9 but our class is at 8.

    3. Matt Zagaja

      In my high school when I took AP Computer Science it was an elective that we took instead of a study hall. Many other students would choose to do things like Chorus or Band during that period.

  6. jason wright

    “…about half of the software engineers working in the TEALS program in NYC were recruited from this blog.”outstanding achievement.

  7. Paul Sanwald

    I was recruited from AVC via Fred’s post last year, and TEALs has been a fantastic experience for me so far. It’s a lot of work, but extremely rewarding, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone. We are remotely teaching a high school in Warren County, NC. I’m from NC originally so it’s cool to be able to teach kids from an area that I know might not have the resources to otherwise have a CS class.If you are reading this and thinking about volunteering, definitely get in contact with TEALs and get some more information; it’s a great program. Like most other people, I have a very demanding day job, but everyone has been fully supportive of me making time to teach. I’ve gained a lot of new skills in the process as well.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Paul

  8. William Mougayar

    “Pair teaching” – a great idea whose time has come. And it sounds better than “guest lecturing”.

    1. Eddie Wharton


  9. gzino

    Awesome. Hope to see this model extended across other education domains as well, e.g. life sciences, increasing the probability that each student discovers experts and fields that resonate.

  10. Brian Papa

    I’ve been part of TEALS this year at the iSchool in SoHo. Great program. For me it’s been all about opportunity and access – I went to a fairly rich public high school and was able to take programming classes my Junior and Senior years. If I hadn’t taken those classes, who knows where I’d be now. Probably not here.TEALS is a lot of work but rewarding. You’re getting a diverse group of kids interested in Computer Science. One of ours from the fall semester has even returned for the Spring in order to learn another language. There’s probably a kid like that in every school, so volunteer and you’ll meet them.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Brian

  11. pointsnfigures

    Hyper local. Make a difference. If we all do it in our own communities, we will create a macro movement.

  12. Tah Teche

    Hope this could be replicated in Cameroon, West Africa (where am writing). Unfortunately we have fewer programmers/Software engineers here but I run a Computer Science outreach initiative were we go to HS students, talk CS, why they should care about it, give them some online resources, books and software to help them start on their own while we keep in touch with them via email. Very tedious and hope we can get the traction and success you get in New York.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      I’m not sure if Code Acadamy would be of help, but I’ve found it to be great to get folks over first hurdle.

  13. BillMcNeely

    I am really glad to hear that the AVC effort in TEALS effort is having a positive effort. Happy to hear you were able to cut through the red tap to help K-12 students.I was at a 1M Cups of Coffee gathering this morning at Dallas Entrepreneur Center (@theDECtx ) and heard a pitch from http://upswing.io a coaching platform for community college students.The company was originally focused on the struggling high school student based on the founder’s @melvinhines high school experience of seeing 68 of his 264 Senior graduate on time.What he found was if the Superintendent, Principal, Teacher or Parent did not sign off on the program, the student could not participate on the platform.Thanks for showing it can be done.

  14. Matt Zagaja

    This is great. Disqus’s reply and share blocks are not appearing for me in the blog today so it is difficult to reply to comments now.EDIT: Oops, it was my adblock extension that was nuking it. Weird.

  15. Brian Lantier, CFA

    As a school board member in rural, upstate NY, we are constantly seeking ways to level the playing field with the wealthier schools within our own state. I’d love to learn more about replicating this program in our schools (I imagine finding a qualified software engineer would be our greatest challenge).

    1. Kevin Wang

      Hi Brian,TEALS do partner with rural schools, we teach the class remotely via Lync.https://www.youtube.com/wat… is a video of how we have been teaching CS to high school students in rural Kentucky. Information for schools that are considering a partnership with TEALS is here http://www.tealsk12.org/sch…It is incredibly important to us that students in rural areas get the same access to CS as students in urban and suburban areas.

      1. Brian Lantier, CFA

        Thank you! I’m meeting with our high school STEM team next week to discuss ways that we could integrate TEALS into our current curriculum.

  16. Dave W Baldwin

    Well done everyone!

  17. Javier_Noris

    I’ve been looking to set up a similar system here in Los Angeles and the biggest barrier has been getting developers on board. Any advice for those of us that lack the audience you have Fred on on-boarding engineers to help kids learn how to code. Here is some information about our program: http://www.strikingly.com/c

    1. Kevin Wang

      Hi Javier,We will be partnered with a dozen or so high schools in the LA area in the upcoming year. http://www.tealsk12.org/about/ has a map of 2014-15 partner schools and schools under consideration.

      1. Javier_Noris

        Hi Kevin, thanks for the info.Do you have an email I can reach you at? If you are ever in the LA area i’d love to throw some ideas back and forth about what can be done to strengthen the CS youth ecosystem.

        1. Nathaniel Granor (TEALS)

          If you email me, I’ll put you in touch with Kevin: [email protected]

  18. ShanaC

    Why are there no finance engineers volunteering?

    1. Cam MacRae

      They’re already working 100 hours a week?

  19. Andrew Jones

    This is my first year in NYC. This program is exactly what I’ve been looking for to spread computer science knowledge to others. I will attend one of the information sessions to learn more about the program. Thank you for posting this, Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      you are very welcome

  20. laurie kalmanson


  21. Chase Roberts

    I love this

  22. Dan Goldin

    I’ve been volunteering for TEALS as well this year although I’ve been doing it remotely. If any readers here are interested or have any questions let me know and I’ll answer them as well as I can. It’s definitely been tough and rewarding at the same time and gives me a much better appreciation of the teachers I’ve had.

    1. fredwilson

      thank you for doing that

  23. sc

    I am a software engineer working as an independent consultant and am considering participating. I would like to get my local high school, in Westchester County, involved. Are these information sessions only for NYC, or would it make sense for me to attend one of the information sessions?

    1. Nathaniel Granor (TEALS)

      Unfortunately, our school selection process for 2014-2015 closed a couple months ago. But, you should definitely get the school in question in contact with me regarding the 2015-2016 school year: [email protected]—Nathaniel Granor, TEALS Regional Director

  24. fredwilson

    thanks Paul

  25. Kevin Wang

    A lot of times in the school we partner with, the CS courses are replacing the computer application classes that teaches Word, PowerPoint, and Photoshop.