MONROE — They’re in the classroom to show students that computer science isn’t just for geeks.
Four volunteers from the technology industry are sharing their skills as part of a new course at Monroe High School this fall. They’re working with students through Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, or TEALS, a program that helps educators teach computer sciences by bringing professionals into the classroom.
Eric Battalio, a Microsoft programming manager, said he wanted to get involved to show kids that people from different backgrounds can find successful careers in the tech industry.
Battalio, 48, said he earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature because he thought the math required for computer sciences was too hard. But he kept programming as a hobby.
After college, Battalio found work in software development and eventually got on at Microsoft as a tech writer. Now, he works with customers to help the company improve its products.
Talking to a classroom of 30 teenagers is a new challenge for Battalio. He said he’s lucky to have help from Jim Bogesvang, the Monroe High math teacher who is overseeing the course. Bogesvang worked in computer sciences for 15 years before becoming an educator.
Battalio said he tries not to lecture students too much, instead leading them in hands-on activities, such as making animated fairy tales.
“It’s amazing to see what they come up with,” he said.
He encourages students to try things they don’t think they’d be good at and challenges them to take on difficult tasks.
Battalio gives the teens his best advice for working on computers: “You’re not going to break it.”
He is joined in the classroom by volunteers Philippe Blais and Hilton L’Orange, also of Microsoft, and Alex Solo, of RokkinCat, a company builds products for startups.
The approval of the school district’s technology levy in 2014 allowed Monroe High to meet the requirements to bring the professionals into the curriculum. The volunteers hope to better prepare students to join the workforce by giving them skills in the high-paying technical field.
“You can see the lights come on with students,” Battalio said. “You feel like you’re making a difference.”