Impact Stories: Rashad

The Life-Changing Power of Computer Science Education:
One Teacher’s Story

Rashad Welch had no training in computer science when he got the call to teach a course in the subject at Beech Grove High School.

Today, he not only teaches Computer Science Principles to 180 students at Avon High School but also trains teachers as a facilitator for Nextech, helping to bring tech education to students throughout the state.

“Nextech profoundly changed my life, allowing me to help students and other teachers. It’s inspiring. It shows us that the things we do on earth matter.”

Well-served by training, curriculum in pandemic

Welch, who identifies as African American, grew up in Anderson, Ind. He’s now 31 and said what little computer education he had was “practical and from the perspective of a consumer. We weren’t taught the science of how a computer works or what it can do.”

Not much has changed, he said. He seconded the opinion of Shayna B., who believes underfunding computer science classes is the biggest mistake schools can make.

“Students today don’t know how to use traditional computers. They use their phones, which means they aren’t using computers or websites to their full capacity. They’re a little bit more naïve than you’d expect.”

His interest in closing this gap drew him away from teaching business at Anderson High School to the spot in Beech Grove – a school and an area with a largely white population. Ill-prepared to teach computer science as he was, Welch had to get up to speed quickly. He was the sole CS teacher.

“Nextech made sure I was trained. I was fortunate in that the school was already affiliated with Nextech when I got there. My professional development through Nextech just kind of snowballed from there.”

Welch taught at Beech Grove High School for three years with Nextech’s support. He then taught at Avon’s Garden City Elementary, but when a position opened up at the high school, he leaped at it.

“I teach AP classes, so it’s a lot like a college class. Students come from different backgrounds, with different shades of melanin and different cultures.”

He’s glad he was there when COVID-19 struck. Avon was on the leading edge of virtual learning well before the pandemic.

“Nextech’s curriculum transitioned really well to online learning,” Welch said. “We were studying big data and privacy when we had to switch to 100% virtual. We were prepping for the AP exam, too. We’d completed the programming portion and decided to pursue the exploratory project while virtual. It required a lot of communication with students and parents, but the support we got from Nextech and Code.org, where the curriculum comes from, was incredible.”

Students are enrolling in this elective course – and excelling. Almost 20% of all the CS Principles AP exams in Indiana came from Avon High School in 2020-2021.

One message: Enroll

Welch has messages for students and non-computer science teachers:

  • Students, enrolling in a computer science class will benefit you no matter what college major or career you pursue.
  • Teachers, getting free training to teach computer science through Nextech is professionally and personally fulfilling. 

CS in general touches every field now. No matter what a student is interested in, tech has an influence on it. I really try to make students think about being producers of tech and not just consumers,” Welch said. “There’s a lot of things we do in our curriculum that should interest them. Most students won’t pursue a field directly in tech, but at least they will have been exposed to the principles of how computing works and automation happens. They will see the power computers hold.”

In fact, Black and Latinx students who try computer science in high school are seven times more likely to major in it, says Code.org. Furthermore, 78% of Black parents say it is important or very important for their child to learn computer science (compared to 67% of Hispanic/Latinx parents and 68% of white parents).

A self-described skeptic, Welch wants teachers to know that Nextech is legitimate.

“Code.org and Nextech have a great partnership and provide access to teachers who may not otherwise have gotten any computer science education. I’m Exhibit A. They had equity and inclusiveness in the fabric of their organizations way before it was in vogue,” he said. “[The access] has had a profound impact on my life. I’m a whole lot more marketable, and everything I’m learning and doing is trickling down to my students, as well.”

Finally, he hopes teachers and students will show school districts the importance of a tech education.

“I think computer science is just as important as chemistry or physics and should be within our Core 40 requirements. It just needs to be done. I don’t see why not – except that we don’t have teachers who are trained to teach it. With Nextech, though, we can get teachers trained at no cost to them or their schools.”

Rashad Welch had no training in computer science when he got the call to teach a course in the subject at Beech Grove High School.

Rashad in his classroom with three students all looking at the camera

Today, he not only teaches Computer Science Principles to 180 students at Avon High School but also trains teachers as a facilitator for Nextech, helping to bring tech education to students throughout the state.

“Nextech profoundly changed my life, allowing me to help students and other teachers. It’s inspiring. It shows us that the things we do on earth matter.”

Well-served by training, curriculum in pandemic

Welch, who identifies as African American, grew up in Anderson, Ind. He’s now 31 and said what little computer education he had was “practical and from the perspective of a consumer. We weren’t taught the science of how a computer works or what it can do.”

Not much has changed, he said. He seconded the opinion of Shayna B., who believes underfunding computer science classes is the biggest mistake schools can make.

“Students today don’t know how to use traditional computers. They use their phones, which means they aren’t using computers or websites to their full capacity. They’re a little bit more naïve than you’d expect.”

His interest in closing this gap drew him away from teaching business at Anderson High School to the spot in Beech Grove – a school and an area with a largely white population. Ill-prepared to teach computer science as he was, Welch had to get up to speed quickly. He was the sole CS teacher.

“Nextech made sure I was trained. I was fortunate in that the school was already affiliated with Nextech when I got there. My professional development through Nextech just kind of snowballed from there.”

Welch taught at Beech Grove High School for three years with Nextech’s support. He then taught at Avon’s Garden City Elementary, but when a position opened up at the high school, he leaped at it.

“I teach AP classes, so it’s a lot like a college class. Students come from different backgrounds, with different shades of melanin and different cultures.”

He’s glad he was there when COVID-19 struck. Avon was on the leading edge of virtual learning well before the pandemic.

“Nextech’s curriculum transitioned really well to online learning,” Welch said. “We were studying big data and privacy when we had to switch to 100% virtual. We were prepping for the AP exam, too. We’d completed the programming portion and decided to pursue the exploratory project while virtual. It required a lot of communication with students and parents, but the support we got from Nextech and Code.org, where the curriculum comes from, was incredible.”

Students are enrolling in this elective course – and excelling. Almost 20% of all the CS Principles AP exams in Indiana came from Avon High School in 2020-2021.

One message: Enroll

Welch has messages for students and non-computer science teachers:

  • Students, enrolling in a computer science class will benefit you no matter what college major or career you pursue.
  • Teachers, getting free training to teach computer science through Nextech is professionally and personally fulfilling. 

CS in general touches every field now. No matter what a student is interested in, tech has an influence on it. I really try to make students think about being producers of tech and not just consumers,” Welch said. “There’s a lot of things we do in our curriculum that should interest them. Most students won’t pursue a field directly in tech, but at least they will have been exposed to the principles of how computing works and automation happens. They will see the power computers hold.”

Rashad looking at the camera while sitting in his chair in his classroom

In fact, Black and Latinx students who try computer science in high school are seven times more likely to major in it, says Code.org. Furthermore, 78% of Black parents say it is important or very important for their child to learn computer science (compared to 67% of Hispanic/Latinx parents and 68% of white parents).

A self-described skeptic, Welch wants teachers to know that Nextech is legitimate.

“Code.org and Nextech have a great partnership and provide access to teachers who may not otherwise have gotten any computer science education. I’m Exhibit A. They had equity and inclusiveness in the fabric of their organizations way before it was in vogue,” he said. “[The access] has had a profound impact on my life. I’m a whole lot more marketable, and everything I’m learning and doing is trickling down to my students, as well.”

Finally, he hopes teachers and students will show school districts the importance of a tech education.

“I think computer science is just as important as chemistry or physics and should be within our Core 40 requirements. It just needs to be done. I don’t see why not – except that we don’t have teachers who are trained to teach it. With Nextech, though, we can get teachers trained at no cost to them or their schools.”

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