In a world where computers affect every aspect of our lives, implementing computer science education in local school districts couldn't be more important. In his role as STEM & Computer Science Coordinator with the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Rudy Escobar spearheads professional development initiatives that equip educators with the tools they need to teach CS to their students. Hear from Rudy about his background, role, and passion for equity in our rapidly evolving world.
With an engineering background, I arrived in the United States as an immigrant, eager to pursue my career. However, due to various challenges, I had to return to school to obtain a degree from the United States before starting my journey in the industry, where I worked for eight years. Throughout my academic and professional journey, I enjoyed training and supporting people. One day, a teacher friend invited me to observe his class, and I was immediately captivated by the teacher's enthusiasm and connection with his students. I realized that I could make a positive impact on young adults before they entered the STEM and computer science workforce. Without hesitating, the next day I approached my boss and informed her of my decision to transition into teaching. Despite the doubts and disbelief of some people around me, I was driven by my passion to educate the younger generation, even if it meant taking a pay cut. Today, that same passion continues to motivate me to make a difference in the lives of students, educators and administrators, and I am grateful for the opportunity to inspire and empower the next generation of STEM and computer science leaders.
As an advocate of equity, I firmly believe that it should be the cornerstone of anything we undertake. To me, achieving equity in all aspects of education, including academic equity, systemic equity, and climate equity, as outlined by the CA-QPLS, is imperative. In particular, ensuring equity in computer science education is of utmost importance because every student deserves equal access to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become well-informed citizens and succeed in a rapidly evolving world. Without equitable access to CS education, we risk perpetuating disparities and hindering students' potential for success.
Describing my role is always a challenge because I am involved in various aspects of my field. As a STEM Coordinator, I primarily provide professional development for educators and administrators. However, I am also deeply committed to developing opportunities that directly connect with students and parents. Yet, my role extends beyond these responsibilities. I take leadership roles to support not only my region but also anyone that needs support around our state, and I consider myself an advocate for equitable STEM and computer science education. Through my leadership roles, I strive to have a voice and advocate for all students and educators, not just in my region but nationwide. Collaboration is another passion of mine, and I enjoy working with multiple partners to expand STEM and computer science education in our state. I am always eager to support our CS community in any way possible, as I firmly believe that access to STEM and computer science education is critical to achieving equity and success for all students.
Offering a comprehensive CS curriculum is crucial for providing guidance to educators on how to teach computer science. However, like many other regions, Stanislaus County faces numerous challenges in providing equitable access to computer science education for all students. Although some schools in the county offer computer science courses, this education is not accessible to all students due to competitive priorities within our system. To address this issue, we recognize that we need to begin providing computer science education at a very early age, ideally in K-8. However, educators in these grades face numerous requirements and demands, and computer science is often seen as an add-on or enrichment activity.
To combat these challenges, we have created numerous opportunities for computer science education within the existing system. We provide professional development for K-6 educators, encouraging them to integrate computer science into their ELA, mathematics, arts, and science. We also offer professional development for educators teaching grades 6-8 to integrate computer science through physical computing into their science courses. Additionally, we have developed lessons and provided professional development for coordinators and staff to integrate computer science and physical computing for students from multiple districts who attend our Career Inspiration Center. We have even provided professional development for after-school program educators to teach computer science and physical computing to their students. Additionally, we offer opportunities to introduce programming to underrepresented students and their parents in their own communities, encouraging parents to advocate for their children to have access to computer science courses in their schools and inspiring students to take these courses. While we still have a long way to go to make CS education equitable for all students in our region, we are proud of the positive strides we have made.
Computer science education provides numerous benefits for all students, regardless of their future career aspirations. One of the most significant benefits is preparing them for the rapidly changing technological landscape. In today's world, computer science is an essential component of almost every industry, and a basic understanding of programming and software development can be an advantage in any job. Furthermore, as artificial intelligence becomes increasingly prevalent, students must have a solid foundation in computer science to make informed and ethical decisions about the development and implementation of AI programs. Without this understanding, they may not fully comprehend the implications of AI on society, such as potential job displacement, privacy concerns, and algorithmic bias. Additionally, computational thinking skills, such as problem-solving and analytical skills, are essential for all students. These skills help students approach complex problems in a structured and systematic way and find efficient solutions.
It is important to provide high-quality training to educators who want to teach computer science. The CSTA Landscape Survey of PreK-12 CS Teachers revealed that many teachers lack the confidence to promote equitable computer science at the district or state level, and that a significant percentage of teachers lack confidence in motivating students who show low interest in computer science, using culturally-relevant pedagogy to support student learning, and using topics of inequities as a tool in computer science. This issue indicates that there is a need for training that can equip teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively advocate for computer science education in their communities. High-quality training can help teachers develop the skills and knowledge they need to address these challenges and provide an inclusive and equitable learning experience for all students.
I feel honored to be a part of this wonderful CS community. I've been blessed to find exceptional mentors and friends who have helped me grow as a leader. I am grateful for all that I have learned and accomplished thus far, and I am excited to continue growing and learning with this community.
To learn more about STEM & Computer Science at Stanislaus County Office of Education, check out their computer science online hub.