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Episode Show Notes


Former teacher and current tech worker Sophia talks about why she left the classroom, how people perceive teachers, how to bring STEM to four-year-olds, and the value of communication skills in software development.

Our closing music is “Yes And” by Steve Combs, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Subscribe and leave episode reviews wherever you get your podcasts. Support Pios Labs with regular donations on Patreon, by purchasing digital teaching materials at the Pios Labs curriculum store, or by buying a copy of the reference book Engineer's Guide to Improv and Art Games by Pius Wong. You'll also be supporting educational tools and projects like Chordinates! or The Calculator Gator. Thanks to our donors and listeners for making the show possible. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of Pios Labs.


Pius Wong  0:00 

A teacher turns tech worker, in The K12 Engineering Education Podcast. Today we hear from Sophia, a former teacher of Austin Independent School District, or AISD, here in Texas. She used to teach all subjects, including STEM, to her elementary and pre-K kids. Why did she leave teaching? I'm Pius Wong. Sophia and I met in Austin to talk just before she was about to start a new position with a tech and software company.


Pius Wong  0:39 

Thanks for meeting me here in Austin at a cafe. That's what all this background noise is. So Sophia, you were a teacher?


Sophia  0:47 



Pius Wong  0:48 

And you also are a coder?


Sophia  0:51 



Pius Wong  0:51 

Working in tech. So tell me a little bit about your work background.


Sophia  0:57 

As a teacher?


Pius Wong  0:58 



Sophia  0:59 

Okay. Well, I taught for about 10 years in Austin Public School District. Can I say that? [laughs]


Pius Wong  1:07 

Yeah, unless you, like, did something illegal, and then you probably shouldn't.


Sophia  1:11 

No. [laughs] Yeah, I taught fourth grade, kindergarten, pre-K, and special needs, when I was a teacher at various different schools.


Pius Wong  1:22 

That's a long time to be teaching. Right?


Sophia  1:24 



Pius Wong  1:24 

And you're not teaching now, though. You changed gears a little bit.


Sophia  1:28 

A little bit.


Pius Wong  1:29 

I understand you went to General Assembly, which is like a web development school. How would you describe what it is, the program that you're in?


Sophia  1:39 

I took a web development immersive program. It was a boot camp that lasted three months, and it was nine-to-five.


Pius Wong  1:49 

Yeah, it's intensive.


Sophia  1:50 

It was very intense.


Pius Wong  1:51 

Like, even though it's officially a nine-to-five. I heard you all...


Sophia  1:54 

We all stayed after because every day we had homework. Most everybody stayed after to do their homework until, I think the latest, like eight or nine.


Pius Wong  2:05 

What were you learning? I know you said web development. So what does that mean?


Sophia  2:09 

We mainly learned JavaScript, and a little bit of Python. HTML and CSS, and a little bit of SQL. I don't know, it was a lot of front-end, mostly front-end stuff.


Pius Wong  2:24 

So how websites look and behave. Okay. So that's different from teaching.


Sophia  2:31 

Yes. Quite different.


Pius Wong  2:33 

Yeah. What made you think about doing that jump after so many years of teaching?


Sophia  2:40 

What made me think about it? I think it's because a lot of my family's in tech, is what made me think about tech specifically. My sister's a senior UI/UX, and my mom is a software developer. My brother-in-law is a full-stack developer. So I saw it a lot. I saw their -- I think I envied their lifestyle, maybe?


Pius Wong  3:13 

Okay, yeah, I guess they probably get paid more than the average Texas teacher.


Sophia  3:17 

Yeah, like twice, thrice.


Pius Wong  3:19 

[laughs] I shouldn't laugh, that's, like, really sad. But you give me this look like, everyone knows this, basically.


Sophia  3:25 

Yeah, that's something I've definitely been struggling with, is the the pay. I think it's super unfair, the pay, especially in Texas. I think that the public probably just doesn't understand. They don't understand exactly what, you know, a teacher does.


Pius Wong  3:43 



Sophia  3:43 

So I think that's why they don't pay them more.


Sophia  3:52 

It's funny because I -- When I first, you know, left teaching, I really wanted to write a book about, like, what teachers really did.  I thought about making a movie, even, because I just wanted to really portray exactly what teachers do, like a day-to-day life of a teacher. Because it's not what people think, and it's not what media portrays it either. You know, in media, you see kids quietly raising their hand.


Pius Wong  4:22 

I see Stand and Deliver with, you know, Escalante.  But it's not like that.


Sophia  4:27 

It's not like that at all. And it's so frustrating, because that's what you see in media. And then everyone thinks that they know what a teacher does, because they've been in school.


Pius Wong  4:38 

Or because they've gone through school, they think that their experience is what it is everywhere.


Sophia  4:44 

Right.  But there's a lot of background stuff that we do. Like, I don't think a lot of people know that there's a lot of paperwork that you have to do, and, you know, the behavior manage -- Anytime you do anything, like, behavior management or intervention, you have to write a whole other -- You have to document everything.


Pius Wong  5:05 

Right. You said you taught special needs students for a while, too, and I'm sure there's lots of guidelines.


Sophia  5:12 

Specifically special needs, you need to document everything. You're recording everything that you do, all the small group, all of the interventions.


Pius Wong  5:23 

As a teacher, do you get training for that?


Sophia  5:25 

We get training for it, but I don't think we get enough training for it, and we don't get enough time to do it.


Pius Wong  5:29 

Trial by fire?


Sophia  5:30 



Pius Wong  5:30 

You just do it, and you learn as you go?


Sophia  5:32 

I definitely think teaching is trial -- I don't think that I learned -- Most of my teaching, I learned from teaching.


Pius Wong  5:46 

You told me before that you had experience developing project-based learning lessons, too. That's a lot of work. That requires documentation, too, right? And thinking and planning. How much time does that take? Creating lessons, all this stuff outside of the class? How much time does that need?


Sophia  6:02 

It was a lot of work. One of the biggest project-based lessons or unit lessons that I created was about gardening and the importance of gardening with your students. And I made -- It took a long time, because I wanted to present it to the district, too, because it was something new at the time. You know, we were all following the curriculum roadmaps.


Pius Wong  6:28 

So this is years ago before the whole push for PBL everywhere.


Sophia  6:32 

Yes. But I created basically a school garden to cafeteria table program, because I saw that -- I went to a lot of workshops, and I was reading a lot about gardening and about, you know, behavior management, as well. And there's -- If kids are more out in nature, they're less like -- you're less likely to have behavior problems, and there's a lot of engagement involved in it, too, because they were more excited about doing a project, first of all, than, like, oh, we're going to learn about measuring, you know? [laughs] So they were more excited about like, Oh my gosh, so we're going to make a garden, and, you know, how big should our garden be? What kind of plants do you want to grow? And how should we take care of them?


Pius Wong  7:21 

They had to measure when doing that.


Sophia  7:23 

Exactly. There was a lot of STEM involved in that. There's a lot of measurement. There's a lot of reading involved, a lot of research.


Pius Wong  7:31 

And classroom management, too, I would imagine, with all these tools lying around.


Sophia  7:36 

Right, but when kids are engaged, like super-engaged in something, there's actually less management, behavior management, that you have to do, because everybody's already super engaged. And you don't have to do a lot of correction or a lot of redirection.


Pius Wong  7:52 

Even for little kids.


Sophia  7:53 

Yeah, because they want to be a part of this huge project. So in a sense, you're like, are you sure you want to do that? Or, do you want to be a part of our gardening project? So it was really good. I saw their STEM scores went up. Their reading scores went up. Their behavior was a lot better.


Pius Wong  8:12 

So you actually researched this in your own way. You saw if these PBL initiatives actually made a difference.


Sophia  8:18 

Right. I did trial-and-error kind of stuff.  I did, like, mini PBL lessons, and then I grew them to be more math...


Pius Wong  8:27 

It wasn't just all of a sudden you rolled an entire...


Sophia  8:29 

No [laughs].


Pius Wong  8:30 

That's cool. And did you have support in doing this? Colleagues to help you out?


Sophia  8:34 

You know, that's why I like pre-K so much. I taught pre-K for most of my teaching years. That's why I like pre-K so much, is because it's a lot of exploration. And a lot of -- I think there's a lot of leniency on how you teach.


Pius Wong  8:49 

Fewer standards?


Sophia  8:50 

It's not fewer standards, but it's -- I think you're allowed to be more creative as a pre-K teacher, because most principals and teachers are more concerned about the upper grades, you know?


Pius Wong  9:04 

So they weren't looking at you as closely as they were the high school students or something.


Sophia  9:08 

Right. So I'm allowed -- They'll allow me to do a project-based learning -- because it's like, whatever.


Pius Wong  9:14 

That's so funny you say that.  Today they're like, Oh yeah, let's do PBL, but back then there was resistance.


Sophia  9:19 

There was a lot of resistance still. Because I wrote it for modifications for up to second grade. But, you know, the old way of teaching is -- It's like lesson by lesson. We're going to learn about addition. We're going to learn about subtraction. We're going to learn about multiplication. But it's not, like, a unit where the kids are involved, and you have to learn about the history of things. And I think that slowly they -- After a lot of teachers kind of piloted it, they saw the benefits of PBL. But again, I was talking to -- I was in an interview, and they were talking about how -- So he used to be a teacher. And he's like, how did you, you know, convince them to do this? And it's a lot of data. I had a lot of my teacher friends record, you know, what their scores were beforehand, and what their scores were after. And what their behavior was before and what their behavior was after. They saw a lot of positive changes. So I think AISD was focused on data. And when they saw that data, then they were able to kind of look into it.


Pius Wong  10:31 

That's pretty common.


Sophia  10:32 



Pius Wong  10:32 

What I've heard is, educational leadership wants to see the numbers rise. And it's funny that you can measure that behavioral improvement, too. There are metrics for that?


Sophia  10:43 

I made up my own, because there's not really -- I mean, you can probably find some on Teachers Pay Teachers. You know, there's a lot of behavior plans that you can put students on.


Pius Wong  10:54 

I see. You know, one of the things that I saw at South by Southwest Edu, which, by the way, you volunteered for, I forgot to mention. One of the sessions there was about -- One of the themes there was social-emotional learning. And one of the interesting sessions that I didn't get to see, but it sounded interesting was ways to measure that. So, SEL because I guess that's a popular thing now, too.


Sophia  11:18 

That's funny, because I've been teaching for like 10 years, and they changed it. It used to start off with SEL. So social emotional learning. And then they changed it to, I forget the...


Pius Wong  11:31 

Some other acronym?


Sophia  11:33 

Yeah, it was a different -- There was like four different ones that they changed it to. I can't remember the name right now.


Pius Wong  11:42 

I'm bothered by all the educational acronyms.


Sophia  11:44 

I know, there's too many. But it's basically the same thing but executed a different way, or, you know, the things that you say is different.


Pius Wong  11:56 

Can you talk about what it was like to be at South by Edu? Because I spoke to other people about, and I'm curious to see what your opinion was, since you saw a lot of it as a volunteer on the inside.


Sophia  12:07 

Yeah, I was -- I volunteered for Edu. and I just kind of picked one room. So I was the sound person. They call it the conference tech volunteer. But I really just pressed the mute button and the unmute button. But it was very interesting because all the speakers, all the keynote speakers and the panelists were all either in education or involved in education and tech. Edtech, I think, is what they call it.


Pius Wong  12:33 

So like, corporate people as well as educational people.


Sophia  12:37 

Yes. But I think I talked to you about how I thought it was weird that, I felt like the talks were essential for teachers and even students to be a part of, but I didn't see very many teachers or students.


Pius Wong  12:54 

There could have been more teachers there, and there weren't.


Sophia  12:56 

Yes, included in the discussion, because the teachers are the ones in the front lines. But then I realized that teachers probably can't afford the Edu pass, and they probably can't go to -- And it was not during Spring Break, so they'd have to take off work to go to the conference. But there's a Slido that you can ask questions.


Pius Wong  13:19 

Yeah, Slido.com. It's a way to collect questions.


Sophia  13:23 

So while I was doing the sound thing, I kind of put in some questions on my phone.


Pius Wong  13:27 

Okay, you asked the speakers quietly.


Sophia  13:29 

I asked very tough questions to the speakers.


Pius Wong  13:31 

Like for example, what would be a tough question that you remember asking to someone?


Sophia  13:37 

I constantly push, what are you doing for special needs kids? Because I worked a lot with special needs kids. So I'm always thinking about, well, how are you going to include the students with special needs? And how are you going to include refugee students? Because I also -- when I first -- Like, second year teaching is when the refugee students started populating Austin school district. And there wasn't a lot of help when I started. So I'm always concerned with the refugee students and with, you know, minority students, and with special needs, and also with -- I don't know if you know, but pre-K, you have to qualify to get into pre-K. You have to be either homeless or military child or you have to qualify for the free and reduced lunch to be to be able to attend pre-K in Austin. I think right now there's pay-for-pre-K, but back then it was just.


Pius Wong  14:40 



Sophia  14:50 

It's interesting because all the PD that I've been to is just -- I don't think is very helpful. And I think this is a talk that's about the future, and teachers should be involved in that talk, instead of, you know, all the other PD that teachers have to go to.


Pius Wong  15:07 

Yeah, what other PD did you have to go to?


Sophia  15:12 

[laughs] The one thing that comes to mind is, I went to a tech PD, and it was all about how to use Microsoft Word, how to, like, create a box, and I almost fell out of my -- I was like, can I leave, please? I'm so, like, I don't need to know about how to make a box in a Word doc. But a lot of teachers are are not very tech-savvy. So I guess it's necessary...


Pius Wong  15:39 

Not very individualized learning for teachers.


Sophia  15:42 

No. I think there needs to be a lot more talk about the future of tech. I think, especially in public education, there's not enough technology that's out there that's being used, that could be used to enhance the learning in the classroom. Because it's so -- like, I was telling you the other day about how teachers only recently can search their emails. I mean, on top of everything that teachers have to do, I have to not be able to search my email?


Pius Wong  16:15 

Nobody did a presentation at South by about, like, here's the new free email system where you can search...


Sophia  16:21 



Pius Wong  16:23 

Grading. You were talking about grading.


Sophia  16:24 

Oh my God. On top of everything, there's that scroll within a scroll within a scroll, kind of, where you have -- just to put in one grade I have to move, like, a thousand scrolls.


Pius Wong  16:37 

You have to click on this classroom, scroll down to the students, scroll down to whatever.


Sophia  16:40 

So if you click accidentally somewhere else, you have to start all over. It's very frustrating. It's not only the technology that's being used to enhance the classroom, but the technology that teachers have to just put in grades or to use your email -- We're using, I think, Outlook right now. And that's still not the best email system out there.


Pius Wong  16:46 

So, I'm realizing as we're talking, this could make teaching sound really negative.


Sophia  17:11 

I know, right?


Pius Wong  17:12 

But I mean, I spoke to a whole bunch of engineers who left engineering and tech to go become teachers.


Sophia  17:19 



Pius Wong  17:19 

And now you're kind of the other way around. And I think it has to be heard. Like, you left teaching to work in tech. And you are not one of the people who just left in the beginning. You stuck it out for a long time. Do you think you'd ever go back to teaching?


Sophia  17:34 

Um, I don't know. But probably. I think that I definitely still have a passion for teaching. I think I was just -- I think as a normal educator, you get burnt out, but I think I especially -- If you know my teaching history, I went through a lot more than I think a lot of teachers, so I got burnt out a lot quicker, I feel like. But I love teaching. I don't think I got burned out because of the students or because of teaching itself. I think it was just the system. I didn't want to fight against the system anymore to get what the students deserved, you know?


Pius Wong  18:15 

Right. The combination of all the different roadblocks and the lower pay.


Sophia  18:22 

And people not respecting teachers.


Pius Wong  18:25 

Is that something you really saw? You didn't feel respected as a teacher?


Sophia  18:30 

I think I especially see it, trying to go into tech, that I had change my wording whenever I went to interviews. Instead of saying "my students," I said, "my clients," because the moment I said students or teacher, I could see in their faces that it was -- that they just heard, you know, babysitter.


Pius Wong  18:52 

So you mean interviews with a tech company, like, this traditional -- not that you interviewed with IBM, but some company like IBM, if they come from a tech background, they were talking to you, they would look down on you for saying students and being a teacher?


Sophia  19:05 

I mean, obviously, this is my own opinion, but I felt like it was less respected, that they knew that I was a teacher at all.


Pius Wong  19:12 

There is some truth to that. I mean, I keep saying I don't like all the acronyms that are in the education world. Maybe there are things that people in the tech world don't get.


Sophia  19:22 

I don't think it's just the tech world. I think a whole of society does not get what teachers do.


Pius Wong  19:29 

They need to know what you do, what you did, and what teachers are still doing.


Sophia  19:34 

Right. I feel like there needs -- I mean, we could talk for days about all the different things that teachers have to do that people don't know about, but it's a lot. It's almost too much. One of my teacher friends was saying, like, teaching's almost too much, and we're expected to do so much with such little resources, and then, you know, not being appreciated, being told we're not doing enough, you know, things like that.


Pius Wong  20:04 

Right. I heard someone who was saying, like, I don't know if it was you, but, like -- One person at South by was talking about this problem of getting teachers, and one person said, Well, we just need better quality -- We need to hire better quality teachers.


Sophia  20:22 

Right, right.


Pius Wong  20:23 

Not that there's no truth to that, but it was like...


Sophia  20:25 

That was me. I did say that. Yeah, I was kind of pissed off by that. I don't think she was in the classroom. She's like, on the board of a district, not in Austin, but she was just saying we need higher quality teachers.


Pius Wong  20:45 

And there's some truth to that, right?


Sophia  20:47 

There is. And I think it's because -- I got pissed because, yeah, we do need higher quality teachers, but you're running all the higher quality teachers out, because you're not -- A higher quality teacher will go above and beyond and will stay after and will use their money to buy materials for the perfect lesson, you know? But you're running them out because you're not treating them well. You're not paying them well enough, and you're not...


Pius Wong  21:16 

Giving them the support,


Sophia  21:17 

You're not giving them the support, so a higher quality person wouldn't stay in that. Like, wait a minute, I can totally -- I can work in tech and get paid a lot more. [laughs] And not have to, you know, live paycheck to paycheck, you know?


Pius Wong  21:35 

Sometimes I hear people putting teachers on a pedestal, and educators on a pedestal, like, oh, we love our educators, and we should treat them better. And then you have this other side of the conversation where people don't know what teachers do. They don't even care to know it sounds like, sometimes.


Sophia  21:51 

I think it's very political that people are always going to say, Oh, yes, teachers need to get paid more. Yes, yeah, teachers do so much.


Pius Wong  22:00 

Smaller classrooms.


Sophia  22:01 

Like, yeah, people know that they're supposed to say that. [laughs] But nobody ever does anything about it, you know? Are teachers getting paid more? No, like, I know that they cut the education funding in half last year.


Pius Wong  22:16 

Like, the state of Texas is no longer...


Sophia  22:18 

Yeah. There's always talk about it, because it's politically correct to say that.  You see a lot of politicians talk about education a lot.


Pius Wong  22:26 

They're expecting more of the local communities to pay for funding now?


Sophia  22:31 

I'm assuming, but I left before they cut funding.


Pius Wong  22:35 

Was there anything positive that you had seen in your 10 years that was a step in the right direction? Project-based learning sounded like one step.


Sophia  22:43 

Well, there's a lot of good things going on. I know I'm being really negative. [laughs]


Pius Wong  22:47 

Hey, we've got to get it out. It's hard, by the way, for me to find people like you who won't just read off a talking point, and be like, Hey, this is reality. So I'm curious, what are the -- What are some real positive things, besides the negative things?


Sophia  23:01 

Well, yeah, project-based learning I totally agree with. But there's also a lot of great teachers out there that are busting their asses off. And there's a lot of focus on, like you said, social emotional learning, especially after everything that's happening. I think it'll -- There's a lot of good intentions. I think there's not enough funding to make all of that happen sometimes.


Pius Wong  23:32 

What would the funding go to, like if the state of Texas reinstated funding or went above whatever it was before and said we can fund these initiatives, what would happen? What would that look like? Because I can't -- I don't even know what that means, necessarily. Like, does that mean more teachers, more counselors?


Sophia  23:50 

Well, it's weird, because there's different funding for different things. We have a lot of funding for, like, iPads or something, but not enough funding for, like, a counselor for school. All the funding -- I don't know all the -- All the funding comes from different places. So I definitely think there needs to be more funding for counselors. I think that people think, oh, whatever, it's a counselor, but a lot of these schools that I worked at were low-income schools, and they definitely needed a counselor. They come from such traumatic families. They come with trauma to the school.


Pius Wong  24:27 

You're dealing with refugees.


Sophia  24:28 

I'm dealing with refugees, I'm dealing with kids whose parents are incarcerated, you know? So there definitely needs to be more focus on mental health.


Pius Wong  24:41 

Do you think -- Some people would argue that, that's not the job of schools. Like, yes, you can have more counselors, but a lot of it has to be fixed in the community.


Sophia  24:50 

Of course there needs to be a fix in the community, but I feel like teachers take on the job of a lot of different things. [laughs] Counselor, mom. Yeah, we're the -- I always say we're kind of like, we set the stage. We put up the props, but we're also the actors, and we're also the makeup. We prepare everything. But yeah, I think money could go towards a lot of different things. But the number one thing that I can think of right now is definitely mental health. I think especially when you address mental health, like how I was saying, if you help students talk through a lot of things, they're more likely to focus on academics. A lot of kids can't focus on academics, because there's a lot of things going on in their home life. And so if that is being supported, then they're more able to, you know, spend most of their energy on their grades and on learning.


Pius Wong  25:57 

Yeah, it sounds like -- That makes sense when you say it that way. Do you think smaller classroom sizes would help?


Sophia  26:05 

For sure. I think when -- One year I had 30 kids, but they were thirty 4-year olds. And it was mostly managing that I was doing, like, don't run out the door! And it was mostly managing. You can definitely have quality lessons and quality discussions when there are less students, and you can spend more time with each student.


Pius Wong  26:28 

How do you even bring things like STEM to little kids, now that now that you reminded me of that, like, how do you bring STEM to four-year olds?


Sophia  26:35 

Oh, it's easy, like what I was saying about just gardening. You can pull in math, you can pull in science through gardening. I think the first time I did a garden, we saw the life cycle of obviously the plants, but the life cycle of those insects that came to visit our garden, like life cycle of a butterfly, lifecycle of a ladybug.


Pius Wong  26:57 

You had little, like, terrariums watching the different changes?


Sophia  27:03 

They grew in our garden, but we had little bug catchers that we would bring to our classroom for a little bit just to observe different body parts.


Pius Wong  27:10 

What's a bug catcher?


Sophia  27:12 

It's just a container with holes in it. [laughs]


Pius Wong  27:13 

I was like, is it a kid that you told the kid to catch...


Sophia  27:17 

Yes, they're all bug catchers.


Pius Wong  27:20 

Okay, I get it. I mean, we did that. I remember looking at, like, a butterfly way back in the day, or something.


Sophia  27:26 

Yeah. But, you know, they saw the different life cycles. And we even saw the lifecycle of a snail, too. That was pretty cool.


Pius Wong  27:33 

Whoa, growing their own shell and everything.


Sophia  27:35 

Yeah. I think in pre-K, it's mostly...


Pius Wong  27:40 



Sophia  27:41 

Yes. And a lot of it's measurement, counting, colors, stuff like that, but also getting them excited about using a microscope, and using -- I had a digital microscope in my classroom where they could see more closely all the things in our garden. Getting them more comfortable with that. Even using a camera. I had a little kid who -- We had different rotations, you know? Like, you're the cameraman today. You're going to take pictures of everybody. And they did really well. Just getting used to technology was something that I did a lot in my classroom, or getting used to using science tools.


Pius Wong  28:25 

That makes me think of another question. They always talked about gender equity in this South by, and just in general, in STEM. Did you notice at those young ages, there was a difference in how girls and boys perceived math, science, technology, any of that?


Sophia  28:40 

In pre-K, not so much.


Pius Wong  28:42 

Every kid was a kid.


Sophia  28:43 

Every kid just was interested in learning.  I didn't see that so much.


Pius Wong  28:49 



Sophia  28:50 

Well, in my classroom, you know? [laughs] 


Pius Wong  28:52 

Because you're just an excellent teacher.


Sophia  28:53 

Because I'm perfect, yeah. [laughs]


Pius Wong  28:54 

[laughs] Well, okay, you're entering this world of tech now with all of this knowledge with you. How do you think teaching can help you go into this tech world? What skills are transferable?


Sophia  29:08 

As a teacher?


Pius Wong  29:09 

Yeah. What knowledge is transferable?


Sophia  29:14 

I think mostly, the ability to learn is something that -- You know, teachers are always learning different techniques, different skills. And I think the ability to learn is definitely really important. And the ability to communicate. I think, in the tech world, I saw a lot of people not being able to communicate with each other. And I think that as a teacher, I had to be able to communicate with all different kinds of people and be able to communicate effectively.


Pius Wong  29:44 

That's part of what they kind of give you practice with at General Assembly, though, too.


Sophia  29:47 

Right, like working in groups or pair programming. You have to be able to communicate.


Pius Wong  29:53 

In different ways, too, speaking over text or email.


Sophia  29:59 

Through Slack, or even in person. In paired programming, you have to talk about what your strengths are, like, Okay, what are you good at? And what am I good at? What are you not good at? It sounds simple, but a lot of people do struggle with communication.


Pius Wong  30:15 

What's pair programming?


Sophia  30:15 

Pair programming is when -- Basically someone is, they call it the driver. And so if you're making an app, I'll say, Oh, you need to pull in this API. And then the other person just has to, basically, is doing the programming, but I'm telling them with colloquial words, what they should do, what their next step should be. And then that person will code it and then we switch. He or she will tell me what my next steps are, but not in a -- not like, put a semicolon here. Yeah. So, there's a lot of communication going on there.


Pius Wong  30:58 

There's some translation there. I can see that being useful in the classroom. So you used those same skills. You were talking all the time before. You can translate it to...


Sophia  31:06 

Being able to actually explain hard concepts effectively...


Pius Wong  31:11 

To a four-year-old.


Sophia  31:11 

To a four-year-old. It's funny, because they were saying -- They showed us a video of like, especially in programming, you have to be super logical and step-by-step. So they're saying -- They showed a video of a father telling a kid to keep his eye on the ball, this little four-year-old kid to keep his eye on the ball. And the kid literally put his eye on the ball. [laughs] So you have to be very specific when you're coding. So I had a lot of practice being very specific, because kids will do that. If you say, keep your eye on the ball, he'll put his physical eye on the ball.


Pius Wong  31:44 

A computer is like a four-year-old and you have to...


Sophia  31:46 

Kind of, yeah, but with a different language. Yeah.


Pius Wong  31:54 

Where do you hope to be in a couple of years in terms of your work?


Sophia  32:02 

Well, I just got an offer at this big tech company.


Pius Wong  32:07 

Which will remain unnamed.


Sophia  32:08 

It will be unnamed, but...


Pius Wong  32:11 



Sophia  32:12 

Thank you. I realize, I guess, that when you're in a position, when you put yourself in a position to help, then you're more likely to be able to help. So I'm hoping that in a couple years, I'll be able to take this into the classroom, or somehow positively affect the classroom in some ways. I don't know exactly what yet, but right now I'm working on being in a position to help first.


Pius Wong  32:44 

That makes sense. So you haven't quite left education?


Sophia  32:47 

No, my heart's still there, I think. I think I'm still going to probably volunteer a lot if I have free time.


Pius Wong  32:57 

Well, thank you, Sophia.


Sophia  32:58 

Thank you.


Pius Wong  32:59 

Great talking to you, teacher and tech professional. And I hope I see you at South by next time.


Sophia  33:05 

Of course, yeah. Totally will.


Pius Wong  33:10 

If you're a career changer like Sophia, jumping between education and engineering or technology, I'd be very interested to hear why you changed careers and how it's been going. Send a message to me or to the show. Details are at our website, k12engineering.net. If you liked this episode, help us out by leaving a rating and a review of the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Radiopublic, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, or wherever you are listening to us now. Tweet the show, follow us on Facebook, and look out once again for our proposals to upcoming conferences, including South by Southwest. More on that in future episodes.


Pius Wong  33:53 

Episode transcripts will be on the website as I get time, thanks to an amazing set of supporters on Patreon. If you like what I'm doing, making the show, talking about engineering education issues freely and openly, please let me know by donating on Patreon, too. You can go to patreon.com/pioslabs to donate, or you can find links to Patreon from the podcast website.


Pius Wong  34:19 

Our Closing Music is from the song "Yes and" by Steve Combs, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of my independent studio Pios Labs in Austin, Texas, where I work on several digital projects, like the show. Thank you for listening, and please check it out again soon.