Coding as a Third Language

A Queens Spanish teacher is bridging the gender and race gaps in computer science.

Andrea Chaves, a Spanish teacher at an all-girls’ minority-majority high school is Queens, is tackling the computer science gender gap head-on by working computer science into her Spanish curriculum, teaching her students two languages at once.

Computer science is a rapidly growing field, but women and minorities are dramatically underrepresented. In the next five years, there will be about 1.4 million computer science jobs available. Women will only fill 3 percent of them. Chaves hopes to change that.

Chaves first brought up the gender gap to her principal in the hopes that her school would hire a computer science teacher. She was then tasked by her principal to learn coding herself to teach it to her students.

By teaching coding alongside Spanish, she effectively teaches two languages at once: one to communicate with people, another to communicate with computers.

“I think this is just the beginning of it,” said Chaves on the future of her class. “We are going to start getting more girls into the field.”

Chaves says six of her graduating seniors will go on to study computer science in college as a result of her classes.

One of those six students, Margot Richaud, says she did not know about coding before Chaves introduced her to it. She dreams of a career designing video games to address social issues and has won awards for one such game that she has designed.

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