Program expands computer science instruction in Wisconsin

Associated Press

June 6, 2019

MILWAUKEE  Dozens of Wisconsin schools are participating in a program created by tech giant Microsoft's philanthropic arm to address a shortage of computer science professionals across the country.

Hortonville High School recently wrapped up its second year using the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools program, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The program pairs educators with technology professionals to teach computer science in schools that might not have been able to offer the subject.

The partnership simultaneously trains teachers in the subject so they can take over instruction in two years.

Scott Brielmaier, who has taught at Hortonville for 27 years, has been working with three volunteer tech professionals to teach computer science. He approached the subject with a background in older programming languages, such as BASIC and Pascal. But he didn't know much about Java, which was the focus of the class.

Brielmaier said the volunteers did most of the teaching last year. But this year, Brielmaier said he has led the teaching about 80% of the time.

Brielmaier will take over the class next year.

"I think I'll feel pretty comfortable," he said. "They've given me good support."

The number of Wisconsin teachers with backgrounds or proficiencies in computer science is relatively low, meaning that some students weren't getting exposed to the subject.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction found that 17 teachers completed a state preparation program in computer science over the past five years. Fifty received regular licenses and 46 received emergency licenses or permits to teach computer science.

Erin Draheim was once a student of Brielmaier's, but she has spent the last 20 years working in software development. Now a software engineer with Skyline Technologies, Draheim was one of the volunteers assisting Brielmaier's class.

Draheim said she hopes to encourage more girls to give computer science a try.

Hortonville freshman Grace Vanden Heuvel said Draheim's presence in her class has helped her envision a career in technology.

"Having somebody who relates to you is really important because it gives you a sense of confidence in yourself," she said.