Impact Stories: Raegan

Don’t Be Afraid to Teach Computer Science

High school business department chair Raegan Towne jumped in with both feet. No regrets.

Raegan's Headshot

Raegan Towne described her first two semesters of teaching high school computer science as “a year of drowning.”

“It was before Nextech and Code.org, so there was no outside support. I watched YouTube videos and read and tried things,” she said. “Apparently the students told each other that I was a fair teacher and that when I didn’t know what I was doing, I was honest and said we’d work it out together.”

Towne was teaching business at both Southport and Perry Meridian high schools in Indianapolis when they responded favorably to students’ requests for CS courses. She was in the right place at the right time—and being unafraid to dive in made all the difference.

“My administrators said, ‘You’re going to teach CS, including AP, and you will learn this summer.’ I spent a week with AP teachers who knew what they were doing, part of a grant that helped Title 1 schools offer computer science. The thinking behind it was good: If we can get more students to take AP classes by supporting teachers, then more students will go on to college,” she said. “Fortunately, I found a few other teachers who’d been tossed into CS like me. We said we didn’t know what we were doing and needed help with content. So they brought in people who taught us content. It was wonderful.”

Eventually, that experience led Towne to become a professional development facilitator for Nextech so she could teach other teachers how to teach CS.

“Teachers shouldn’t be intimidated about teaching CS. We all have the ability to learn, and everyone could handle the intro level. But it’s intimidating because when we think of tech and computer science, we think of Bill Gates and Elon Musk, people who are wicked brilliant and phenomenal businesspeople. Why do we pick the top people in an industry and think, ‘I could never do what they do!’? It’s just goofy to think you can’t teach,” she said.

Business teachers aren’t the only ones who should consider teaching CS.

“Any teacher could do it. One of the people in my cohort was a school librarian. We’ve had English teachers, middle-school science teachers – lots of different backgrounds. There’s no CS-specific license in Indiana. You take a test and get CS added to the teaching license you have.”

Having support and a community through Nextech is invaluable, said Towne, who now chairs Perry Meridian’s business department.

“I’ve always been the only CS teacher in my building, and I didn’t have the classroom time most teachers do when I started. Now I have a community. I know support is there, and it definitely helps you feel less isolated,” she said. “They’ve given me the training to become a better facilitator. Having the opportunity to learn and grow as an educator and in my field has been really great. One of the things I love about the pedagogy is that you don’t have to be the expert in the room. You just have to be willing to step out and learn how to lead. It gives you permission to say, ‘I don’t know.’ And it keeps me humble.”

Raegan Towne described her first two semesters of teaching high school computer science as “a year of drowning.”

“It was before Nextech and Code.org, so there was no outside support. I watched YouTube videos and read and tried things,” she said. “Apparently the students told each other that I was a fair teacher and that when I didn’t know what I was doing, I was honest and said we’d work it out together.”

Towne was teaching business at both Southport and Perry Meridian high schools in Indianapolis when they responded favorably to students’ requests for CS courses. She was in the right place at the right time—and being unafraid to dive in made all the difference.

“My administrators said, ‘You’re going to teach CS, including AP, and you will learn this summer.’ I spent a week with AP teachers who knew what they were doing, part of a grant that helped Title 1 schools offer computer science. The thinking behind it was good: If we can get more students to take AP classes by supporting teachers, then more students will go on to college,” she said. “Fortunately, I found a few other teachers who’d been tossed into CS like me. We said we didn’t know what we were doing and needed help with content. So they brought in people who taught us content. It was wonderful.”

Eventually, that experience led Towne to become a professional development facilitator for Nextech so she could teach other teachers how to teach CS.

“Teachers shouldn’t be intimidated about teaching CS. We all have the ability to learn, and everyone could handle the intro level. But it’s intimidating because when we think of tech and computer science, we think of Bill Gates and Elon Musk, people who are wicked brilliant and phenomenal businesspeople. Why do we pick the top people in an industry and think, ‘I could never do what they do!’? It’s just goofy to think you can’t teach,” she said.

Business teachers aren’t the only ones who should consider teaching CS.

“Any teacher could do it. One of the people in my cohort was a school librarian. We’ve had English teachers, middle-school science teachers – lots of different backgrounds. There’s no CS-specific license in Indiana. You take a test and get CS added to the teaching license you have.”

Having support and a community through Nextech is invaluable, said Towne, who now chairs Perry Meridian’s business department.

“I’ve always been the only CS teacher in my building, and I didn’t have the classroom time most teachers do when I started. Now I have a community. I know support is there, and it definitely helps you feel less isolated,” she said. “They’ve given me the training to become a better facilitator. Having the opportunity to learn and grow as an educator and in my field has been really great. One of the things I love about the pedagogy is that you don’t have to be the expert in the room. You just have to be willing to step out and learn how to lead. It gives you permission to say, ‘I don’t know.’ And it keeps me humble.”