This entry is part of our summer blog series on women in the tech sector. We chose women and companies that we find interesting and we asked them about what they’ve learned along the way. Lisa Walsh is a Math and Computer Science teacher at Copper Middle School in McLean, Virginia, and she shared the details of her STEM background, as well as some of what she experienced while introducing a coding class at Cooper.
What we asked: Please describe your STEM background?
What she said: I went to UVA (a long time ago😊) and had an interdisciplinary major in computer science, physics and math. When I graduated from UVA I went to work for IBM and worked with airlines on technology solutions including one of the first self-service ticketing kiosks. I worked with IBM for over 15 years in various roles (systems engineer, client executive, marketing manager).
What we asked: What drove you to start the coding class at Cooper Middle School?
What she said: I went to a conference for educators of gifted learners and I attended a session given by a computer science teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School. She emphasized the benefits and importance of teaching our students to code at a young age. She said that middle school was a critical time and that we should be offering coding and computer science to middle schoolers. I found her arguments extremely compelling so I went back to my principal to tell her that we needed to offer a coding class. She told me that we could do it if I would develop it and teach it. So since I had a background in computer science, I agreed to do it. We are finishing our 2nd year of teaching coding and we now have 2 offerings: an intro to coding class based in Scratch and an intermediate coding class based in Python.
What we asked: What kinds of things are you hearing from parents and students about the class?
What she said: The classes have been extremely popular. We had to add a new teacher this year and we’re bringing on another teacher next year. The students have a lot of fun and do pretty amazing work. The parents are very happy we offer these courses.
What we asked: What differences have you seen in the way girls and boys approach STEM?
What she said: I sometimes feel the girls initially approach STEM with a little more caution and less confidence than the boys. But my experience in coding class has been that the girls are excellent coders: clever, creative and patient. Once the girls get started, they become extremely confident and committed. It’s a wonderful journey to watch and experience with them.
If this article was of interest to you, then check out some of the other posts in this series.