Middle school science teacher empowers girls in afterschool coding club
This story is part of a series that celebrates Teacher Appreciation Month. Each day in May, we will introduce to you an outstanding educator within the Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.
This past spring, seventh-grade students Sarayu and Ayesha designed an app called Eco Explorers, in which users would be rewarded points for completing challenges and could also find eco-friendly events in their area.
Fellow classmate Nalini and her team created an app called Your Life, Your Choices, where users were encouraged to make good decisions like picking up trash, planting a tree, helping animals or eating healthy.
Sadie, Natalie and her team chose to build an app for students who were seeking support in mental health, offering them a professional to chat with about sleep problems, depression or anxiety.
These middle school students from Coppell, Texas, don’t attend a daily computer coding boot camp in which they’ve been heads down for months. They only began learning about building apps in January, when seventh-grade science teacher Jodie Deinhammer decided to offer a free afterschool program called Girls Who Code.
And those smiley girls have been aspiring to change the world ever since.
“These girls completely teach themselves,” says Jodie, who’s been an educator for over 20 years. “I’ll stand there, like, ‘I have no idea what you just said to each other, but you’re amazing.’ They think it’s so funny they know something I don’t, and I love that.
“This program really empowers them to realize that if they are motivated enough, they could teach themselves to do anything.”
It begins with teachers like Jodie.
Hands-on Activities and Tech Over Tests
Jodie is a busy teacher. Alongside Girls Who Code, she leads the school’s community garden and Sustainability Club, where she teaches students how to compost, harvest plants and conserve seeds.
She also led a clean water project for a couple years, where she partnered with a school in Sudan to raise money for wells and open a new school. A box of iPads sits in her empty classroom awaiting delivery to students across the world.
Over the years, she’s taught anatomy and physiology, microbiology and nutrition. She even taught high school for a while before settling into life science. She hasn’t slowed down, but she has found her peace.
“Middle school kids are so weird, I love them so much,” Jodie says. “They’re not too cool for school yet, so we can be silly together. My classroom has all these different learning spaces, and it’s always active and student-driven. We have so much fun together.”
She appreciates hands-on activities over lectures and uses technology over testing to assess growth in her students. Over ten years ago, her district received a grant where her students could go one-to-one with tech, and she hasn’t looked back since.
“Suddenly, the kids were creating stuff instead of just memorizing stuff,” Jodie says. “I think it’s so important for kids to realize they have a say in what they learn and how they show their learning, and technology allows for that kind of creative expression.”