C&IT brings computer science to Detroit high schoolers in TEALS program

C&IT is going back to school.

Director of Desktop Engineering for Wayne State University Computing & Information Technology (C&IT) Curtis Kratt can be found at Renaissance High School in Detroit twice a week, teaching students coding, computer science, cybersecurity and more through the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program created by Microsoft.

Due to a lack of teachers and rising equipment costs, many school districts are unable to support a computer science class. Created in 2009, TEALS allows tech industry professionals like Kratt to volunteer their time and knowledge to fill these curriculum gaps.

Kratt earned his undergraduate degree in computer science from Wayne State in 2008, and he remembers how limited the topic was in high school.

“When I found out nearly 20 years later that computer science was still struggling to gain a foothold in public schools and that through TEALS I had an opportunity to help, my mind was made up,” said Kratt.

TEALS volunteers partner with teachers to provide computer science education to students, but educators also benefit from the program. Over the two-year plan, volunteers ensure that teachers are prepared to continue the course on their own.

“It’s great having someone from in the field come in the classroom and share those experiences,” said Duncan Debruin, Kratt’s teaching partner at Renaissance High School. “I’m confident that I’ll be able to continue this course on my own.”

Kratt is a natural in the classroom. He has built an obvious trust with his students and, as a result, they are talkative and eager to share what they’re learning.

“Every week, he tells us stories about the students and what they are accomplishing. This excitement in the classroom is a direct reflection of the enthusiasm and experience that he brings,” said Melissa Crabtree, senior director of C&IT customer services and Kratt’s immediate supervisor.

Students in Kratt’s course will have the opportunity to take the AP Computer Science Principles exam which — thanks to a partnership with the organization CSforAllmay be transferred to Wayne State for college credit.

“Watching the kids grow confidence thanks to this program is the best part,” said Debruin.

The TEALS program is one of many ways C&IT provides computer science opportunities to students. This fall, C&IT began an internship program for Wayne State students. C&IT will also host four local youths in summer 2019 as a part of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, a citywide program that trains and employs young adults.

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