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Public School Teacher Celebrated for Her Girls-Only CS Classes

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teacher Chantel Parnell of Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland, Calif.

Chantel Parnell led a group of her computer science and animation students at Bret Harte Middle School to the first Future Trailblazer Challenge, a "Shark Tank" style competition in May 2019.

Credit: Jessica Christian / San Francisco Chronicle

Growing up, Chantel Parnell would round up all the kids in her neighborhood to hold "school" on her front lawn. "I've always wanted to be in this field," says Parnell, an educator at Oakland's Bret Harte Middle School honored by the district with a Teacher of the Year award.

Parnell was recognized partly for her innovation in the classroom: She's pioneered a number of computer science and animation courses at the school, many of which are all-girls.

Parnell's classes could help create a pipeline of women in computer science as Bay Area technology companies try to diversify their ranks. Despite the high job demand, computer science is still a largely male-dominated field in America. Though jobs are projected to grow by 19%, women earn only 18% of computer science bachelor's degrees in the United States.

Parnell didn't have a computer science background when she suggested introducing a beginner's computer science class, she only had her Bryn Mawr undergraduate degree in mathematics and a minor in education. "I'm new at this," she told students. "I don't know anything about computer science." But she reassured them, "we are going to figure it out together."

From San Francisco Chronicle
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