Membership Newsletter

October 2021
Dedicated bulletin to Computer Science Teachers of the Puget Sound and WA State

Message from the President:

I know for most of those reading you’ve been back in the classroom for several weeks already. I do hope that you and your students are settling in well enough, despite the challenges the COVID 19 pandemic has caused.
UW's autumn quarter started this week, but I was busy for most of August and September teaching a course called “Startup” during our Early Fall Start (EFS) session. For those of you who don’t know about the UW schedule, EFS is a session
that is held between Summer Quarter (which usually ends the 2nd week of August) to just before the regular Fall term begins. It is largely geared for students who want a transition into college, to get used to being in the mindset of school, and to get on campus early before the crowds rush in. Students receive 5 credits, which eventually shows up on their autumn transcript, but by focusing on one class for four weeks, instead of juggling 3-5 in their first quarter at UW. It also allows students to have a lighter load during the regular fall quarter, which again allows a gentler transition to the pace of a quarter system*.

For some additional background: Startup is for students who have been admitted directly to the Allen School who have little to no programming experience or are from low-income, first-generation, and underserved backgrounds. I have taught this course twice in person, and now twice remotely (2020 and 2021). This year I decided to complete a 15-minute interview with every student prior to their starting the course, something I’ve done for 5 years with the students I’ve taught through the College of Engineering STARS program. I ask them 6 questions, tell them about the course, and give them time to ask questions of me. In part, I do this because I want to connect with the students 1:1, but I’m also on a fact-finding mission - My area of computer science is Human Computer interaction and we often do interviews to get information on how to better support the users of our products. Well, these students are the users of my product - my class!

The answers to questions in particular REALLY changed in the year. The first “What are some of the types of computers you use and some of the things you often use on a computer? “ - most students would name a desktop or laptop computer, and tell me they do schoolwork, game, participate in Social Media, or watch streaming media like YouTube. This year, however, I had a large number of students who correctly pointed out that their phones, tablets, TVs, appliances, or even cars are computing devices! Wow.

The second set of answers that struck me was to this question: “While this class does not require any previous experience with computational thinking or programming, have you done anything like that in the past you’d like to share with me?”

At least 2/3 of the incoming students said they had some experience. For some it was camps like Girls Who Code, for others, it was outreach by HS Robotics teams to middle school classes, still others it was Robotics clubs or other after school activities… but by and large, a significant number of students had taken “some coding class” like CS Discoveries, Exploring Computer Science (ECS), AP CS Principles, or other courses. And while most diminished this prior experience because it was “years ago and I forgot a lot” or their thought that block-based coding (with Scratch,, MakeCode or the like) isn’t “real coding” (narrator voice, “it is”), they all had that interest and spark and were willing to take four weeks of summer to get a jump start on their education. And every single one of them rose to the challenge of a college-level course.

These 30 or so students are but a mere fraction of the lives you are touching by teaching computational thinking and computer programming. The tools you are giving to them in your classrooms will have such a positive impact on their lives whether they are thinking of majoring in the field or using it as a very powerful tool in whatever they do.

So I would like to take this moment to thank you all for the work you are doing in your classrooms… even through the challenges of this last year.  

Take care and stay safe!

* I liken the quarter system to running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. It can be pretty intense.
Understanding Problems in Teaching CS, K-12
We are conducting an international study to gain an understanding of the problems that K-12 teachers face when teaching computer science or computational thinking. Our goal is to share this knowledge with education researchers so they can hear directly from teachers the problems that need to be investigated. We will use this data to create a publicly available, free, searchable dataset of authentic problems of practice for researchers.Teachers often are left out of the process when researchers choose areas to study, and we want to help bridge that gap through this study. 
Our survey takes about 10 minutes. Those in the U.S. who complete the survey can enter a drawing for a $10 gift card (50 available). Thank you for your time and consideration.
Anni Reinking, Ed.D., ()
Michelle Friend, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Omaha
Monica McGill, Ed.D.,
PSCSTA Planning Meeting 11/3 - Please Join!
We are opening up our next Monthly Leadership meeting to the PSCSTA membership to discuss our planning for the year.  The meeting will be on Wednesday November 3rd,  7 - 8 pm - We will open the meeting about 15 minutes before for some extra social time.
Instead of Zoom, we're going to try a platform called OhYay - which has a more natural feel to the video conferencing.
Save the date for then attend our next monthly meeting 6/9 at 7pm (6:45 if you want to stop by early and socialize).


Encourage someone you know who is new to teaching CS to join PSCSTA!
If you are interested in joining our meeting, please email - I will add you to our calendar event and send you the OhYay link.
Event Planning
Know of something going on? Share it with us: Suggest Events for 2021-2022. 
Looking to Lead? 
PSCSTA has always been run by a small steering committee. Have a talent with social media and marketing? Or maybe you're *really* good at thinking of events for an organization. Join us for a meeting!
Our leadership team meets once every month from 7-8pm (virtually). Email for an invitation. 
We'd like to keep this organization going with fresh ideas and new energy! Currently, our steering committee is comprised of:
  • Lauren Bricker, President
  • Tracey Sconyers, VP
  • Lawrence Tanimoto, Treasurer
  • Alec McTavish,  Member at Large
We are looking for an additional Member at Large and a Communications Officer! We'd love to speak with you you're interested, just shoot over an email. 

Member Spotlight:

Catherine Wyman

I started my career working for the government - in budget automation and later researching treaty compliance. But when a friend asked for help with her class community college class and teaching Excel, I knew I found what really interested me. I loved working with others and helping people learn.  I teach computer science at the college and high school level - programming is my sweet spot. I am particularly passionate about encouraging those who are traditionally under-represented in computer science. I love coding and helping others.

What motivates you / What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about broadening participation in computer science.  Tech jobs tend to be higher-paying, more flexible, and more plentiful than jobs in many other fields. We know diverse teams are better.  I seek to do my part to help make better tech by broadening participation.

Why did you decide to join CSTA Puget Sound?

CSTA is a great organization.  As a CS teacher, it is not unusual for me to be the only CS teacher at my school.  CSTA brings people together and offers some of the best PD on the planet.

As a teacher, what benefits does PSCSTA brings to you?

I am new to the Seattle area - having relocated from Arizona at the end of the last school year. I met PSCSTA members for the first time at the CSTA conference just a few months ago. I look forward to getting to know other CS teachers in the area.

Do you have any advice for anyone new to teaching CS?

Join CSTA+! Participate in professional development offered through CSTA.  Get to know other members.  It's a supportive community with many ways to get involved. It is so helpful to know other CS teachers to bounce ideas off of and learn from.

What’s your perfect “off” day?

Anything active - kayaking, running, hiking, swimming in a local lake, or playing badminton in the yard. I love having family or friends over and catching up over dinner on the deck.

We hope you enjoyed this spotlight! We've added membership spotlights to our newsletter as a way to learn more about each other and make better connections. Please email if you are interested in spotlighting your journey in teaching computer science. If you'd like to connect with other chapter members, contact information is available through the Membernova portal. 

Welcome New Members! 🎉

- David Hidalgo from San Francisco, CA as of September 9th! 
- David Reynolds from Renton, WA as of July 14th!
- Rona Gurkewitz from Seattle, WA as of July 10th!
- Paula Yost from Tacoma, WA as of July 1st!
Why CS Virtual Summit, October 22-23

Computer Science education empowers and equips youth for success in the 21st century. Computer science is for ALL students, not for a select few.

To make Computer Science education in Washington a priority we must increase:  
  • Capacity
  • Access
  • Student engagement
  • Student outcomes 

The first annual Why CS Summit will build a foundation for expanding this work. Join fellow CS educators to connect, collaborate, and build the future of CS in Washington!


Summit learning strands:

  • Strand #1: How CS improves student learning: competencies, literacies, 21st-century skills.

  • Strand #2: How CS drives technological, social & scientific innovation.

  • Strand #3: Why access to CS is an equity & social justice matter.

  • Strand #4: Why CS is a critical component of school reform and improvement .


Who should participate?

This summit is for all K-12 educators across Washington state, which means ALL school staff are welcome regardless of job role. Teachers, administrators, paraeducators, office staff, and more--if you work with students, this summit is for YOU.


Key dates and times.

  • October 22, 2021: 4 pm - 7 pm

  • October 23, 2021: 9 am - 3 pm

If you have any questions, please contact

Helpful Resources

From the WA Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: