TEALS

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Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS) is a grassroots program that recruits, trains, mentors and places high tech professionals from across the country into high school classes as volunteer teachers. Leonardo Ortiz, Microsoft Corporation Citizenship and Public Affairs director talks about the program.

JOSE CARDENAS: Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. A program looking for high-tech professionals to train and place into high school classes as volunteer teachers. Plus an exhibit showcasing 26 blocks of downtown Phoenix in a unique way. And we'll talk to former San Francisco giants catcher and world series champion Bengie Molina about his book, a biography of his father, who saw his three sons make it to the major leagues and win world series rings. All this coming up next on "Horizonte."

VIDEO: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you for joining us. Technology, education, and literacy in schools known as TEALS, trains mentors and recruits professionals in the high-tech industry into high school classrooms as volunteer teachers. Joining me to talk about TEALS is Leonardo Ortiz, director, citizenship, and public affairs for Microsoft CORP. Mr. Ortiz, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." A little warmer here in Phoenix than where you're from in Seattle.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: A little bit.

JOSE CARDENAS: This is a great program that Microsoft started in 2009.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: 2009. It was actually started by a Microsoft employee. He in his free time decided that he wanted to teach computer science in a local high school near our office. He started going to one school in 2009, and then he -- like 10 of his friends and they started to go to schools, and at some point he was convinced that the program needed to grow and he wanted to dedicate full-time to it. He drafted a letter to resign. When he went to his manager, they said we should take this with someone higher in the chain, and it was at the time the then vice president Satya Nadella who is now our CEO, who learned about this initiative and said you shouldn't resign. You shouldn't do it, because if you do, you will spend most of your time not in the classroom, but trying to fund raise to be able to sustain the program. So, what if we just cut the check for you, we fund the program and you spend your time preparing volunteers and going to schools to teach.

JOSE CARDENAS: And from Microsoft's point of view, this wasn't just indulging an employee in a passion that he had. This is a real problem that the United States needs to address.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: It is a real problem/opportunity that the world, and in particular the United States needs to address. There are several aspects of it. The longer term view is that this is -- this computer science education should be foundational for all young people in the world in the United States. All of the kids should learn it like math, like chemistry, like biology. There are skill sets. There are critical thinking involved in learning computer science, problem solving skills that are now required and are going to be required even more as the job market evolves in the future. 20, 30 years ago, only a few professionals had to be in touch with technology. Nowadays everyone needs to know technology, know how to manage it, know how to use it. But more and more, people are going to need to know how to create it as well. Even if they're not software engineers.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thousands and thousands of jobs going unfilled because we don't have the people --

LEONARDO ORTIZ: And that is the shorter-term need. There are many jobs, there are thousands, and there is a projection --

JOSE CARDENAS: I saw a figure 80,000 a year.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: More or less, new jobs. And there is a projection by 2018, there will be 100 million jobs computer science related. Schools, educational system in the United States, will only be able to fill a third of that. So, can you imagine, like a snowball growing. We need to address this. And the way to address this talent gap is to start first of all preparing younger generations, inspire them to pursue a career in computer science, and prepare them and make sure that more people know and study computer science.

JOSE CARDENAS: Let's talk about TEALS and how it actually works. What started with this one employee and is now you are in a number of cities across the country and more recently in Phoenix.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: Yes, this last school year, we finished in 131 schools in 18 states, and the District of Columbia. In order to make that possible, we were working with close to 500 volunteers. Very important stat. Only a fourth of them are Microsoft employees actually. This is more of a movement, across the industry effort with other 75% of the volunteers come from more than 120 companies, that are not only technology companies but across the industry as well and other industries.

JOSE CARDENAS: Some of them in the I.T. department of various companies.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: Some of software engineers in I.T. companies, and others are -- for example, we have an employee from the "New York Times" teaching in a school in New York. That gives you a range. Not only Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook and other companies, employees coming to support, but we're even seeing people with technology backgrounds from other companies coming and supporting the program. In this past year, we had a school here in Phoenix, charter school, that was running the program and we saw the success there, and interest, local authorities, made an announcement and there is widespread support for us to grow our presence here. We will be in the next school year, we will be in seven schools.

JOSE CARDENAS: The mayor you are referring to, Mayor Stanton has got involved in it.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly. Announcement about it.

JOSE CARDENAS: Tell us how the program works.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: Very simple, we first need to -- well, there needs to be the interest of schools. Local schools in the different cities in which we are present, we're the ones saying we want this here. We want the program in our school. So that is element number one. After that, the program is about capacity building. Building the capacity of a teacher that is currently not qualified to teach computer science, to get trained and to be able to learn how to actually teach computer science in order for us to do that, we have to go out and recruit volunteers from the -- computer science majors, software engineers, coders, developers, from different companies, as I said. So, we recruit them to join the effort, and they have a commitment of coming for the full school year. That means they teach -- they commit to teach one class in the morning, which is two days per week, 36 weeks of this school year. They also commit to doing 40-hour training in the summer.

JOSE CARDENAS: You don't just send them in unprepared. They get training, I assume, on how to teach.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: On how to teach. Actually, you raise your hand. Want to be a volunteer. Just because of that, you don't go through schools, you go through an interview process. We need to qualify the volunteers, and we identify which are the better candidates to go to the schools. Hopefully we get more people interested and there is a filtering process. After that, those volunteers get trained on how to teach, and this -- they don't need to make up the curriculum. We actually work with curriculum that was made by the University of California, Berkeley. And by the university of Washington is one of the top 10 programs in the country. We are using those two for content to teach.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you and I were talking a little off camera, this is a self-sustaining program, because these people end up teaching the teachers to then continue --

LEONARDO ORTIZ: That's the beauty of it. Otherwise, it wouldn't be as appealing. What do we mean by -- we partner with the school, volunteer comes and -- and we pair that volunteer with a teacher that is interested in acquiring these skills to then continue teaching computer science. They work together for a year. Following year, the same volunteer may stay or he may go, that person may go, and maybe another volunteer comes and there is a second year of learning for the same teacher. The teacher actually needs to go through a two-year process, and after two years of teaching alongside a computer science professional, the teacher is ready.

JOSE CARDENAS: Sounds like a great program. In Phoenix, if somebody wants to get involved, how would they do that?

LEONARDO ORTIZ: Easy. They should go to our web site tealsk12.org. There is a form there and we will get in touch.

JOSE CARDENAS: One last question, I understand you just added a school here in Phoenix, one that is actually quite well known for the robotics program but now they will be doing something else with computers.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: The fun thing about computer science is that you can actually even do it without a computer. There is basic principles involved. There is robotics involved. Application, development. There is gaming. There is a lot of other things that you can do. You can apply your knowledge to address societal needs, invent something that will solve or track a problem. It is so fun.

JOSE CARDENAS: And in this case, we're talking about Carl Hayden --

LEONARDO ORTIZ: We just added that school. We actually need volunteers.

JOSE CARDENAS: Hopefully people will be watching and volunteer. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this fascinating program.

LEONARDO ORTIZ: Thank you.

Leonardo Ortiz:Microsoft Corporation Citizenship and Public Affairs Director

Bengie Molina

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