Hunter Sapienza, now in his second year of teaching, reflects on his experience working with Kode with Klossy, an organization that empowers girls to learn to code and become tech leaders.
September 11, 2018
Hours before the final presentation, our girls scoured hundreds of lines of code, searching for the error that was causing their web application to fail. With so many moving parts in their programs, these errors were nearly impossible to spot, yet with minutes to spare, Cassie discovered a misnamed file - a simple error, but one that made all the difference. With the slight change published to the server, her group fit all the pieces of their program together just in time, their proud parents streaming in the door, eager to see the hard work their daughters had put together.
This summer, I had the privilege of working as a lead instructor for Kode With Klossy, an organization dedicated to empowering girls to learn to code and become leaders in tech. As a lead instructor, I facilitated coding camps for middle and high school girls in Los Angeles and Seattle. The Kode With Klossy camps helped the girls build foundational computer science skills. I originally spotted the position in an email blast from my Teach For America – New York leadership coach, Margaux. As a high school math teacher, I had no prior computer science experience. However, I felt heavily invested in the gender equity component of the program, as the gap between men and women in all technology fields is significant. Margaux and I also saw it as an opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience in teaching a different content area.
In the months leading up to my first camp, I received online prep work and completed a summer curriculum through Flatiron School and Turing School, web development programs offering career bootcamps. I also attended a computer science education training in Denver. Via these mediums, I got to meet TFA corps members and alumni from regions all across the country. During this training period, we collaborated in building up and modifying the foundational curriculum, using teaching strategies we each had acquired through our different teaching backgrounds and applying our unique styles and experiences to a totally new content! Just as in Institute with Teach For America, the support we provided each other was tremendously valuable and it was inspiring to meet such a diverse group of fellow corps members. As soon as the school year ended, my co-teacher Maddy and I jumped right into the final stages of planning for our first camp, with just over a week until we would meet our first group of girls!
As a 4th grade teacher from the Teach For America Charlotte region, Maddy brought a whole different range of teaching practices and techniques that, in combination with my background as a high school teacher, we blended together to foster the most inclusive and welcoming environment for our girls in Los Angeles and Seattle. Together, we embedded community building activities and routines within days filled with new content, developing a safe space that encouraged our girls to embrace challenges, knowing that every other person in the room would have their back when the coding got tough.
Our girls were nothing short of inspiring – from the first moments together, they fully immersed themselves within the computer programming content and #girlboss energy that filled the room, embracing error messages and fully embodying the “Yes, and?” attitude that uplifted and empowered them to create the most successful final projects possible in the short time we had together.
Joined by guest speakers who represent the women in tech movement throughout the LA and Seattle areas, as well as a few FaceTime calls from founder Karlie Kloss, our girls acquired greater confidence in their ability to accomplish anything they set their minds to, with role models and resources providing the context for how to do so. In final presentations to their peers and families, our girls demonstrated their tenacity and perseverance as they applied an immense amount of brand new knowledge to passions that already existed throughout their lives, sharing web applications dedicated to resources for feminism across popular culture, environmental activism, and deconstructing stigma about mental health, just to name a few.
As a Teach For America corps member just wrapping up my first year of teaching, Kode With Klossy helped develop my teaching practice throughout the summer months and gain experience in a different content area. I gained a better sense of how to quickly build a strong classroom culture that empowered our girls to reach their fullest potential, while effectively conveying large amounts of new content. Combined with reflections on my first year teaching, these are lessons that I can take with me into my classroom this year to further my practice a teacher and a leader. As a first-year teacher, I found the choice to continue developing leadership skills during the summer months to be transformational. This experience pushed my learning and growth as an educator, something I would recommend to any corps member who has the opportunity!