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Charlene Saint-Jean


How did you get into this area?

It all began when I noticed that when students came to the computer lab it took forever for them to log in. I also noticed that when I asked students to open a google doc or slides, they did not know how to manipulate the document. They knew none of the features. So, seeing this need, I began during the school day to try and teach keyboarding and Google Suite. It wasn’t enough, so I decided to begin a computer club after school. My goal was to develop these 21st century skills. From there, I got involved in makerspaces with simple circuits and chibichips. That led me into coding with Scratch. I said to myself, hey, my students would enjoy this! I added commonsense media (for awareness online),, Earsketch,, Helloruby, and Amazon coding challenges. It has been a whirlwind ride, but so much fun!  


What opportunities made a difference? 

As I got into the computer club and exposing students to these much-needed skills, I started to see opportunities for PDs; Scratch PD, CS principles, and Also, when I joined CSTA and connected with MCCE, more new CS courses became available to me. I took all of them over the summer and took them back to my students in the fall in computer clubs. 


What encouragement or discouragement did you encounter? 

I have been encouraged by every chance provided for me to learn more about CS and helping students. My only disappointment has been the lack of attention the younger students (Pre-K- 5) get in connection with CS. There are a lot of online platforms, but not much PD or curriculum directed at these grade levels. 


Why did this work become important to you?

I became increasingly aware of the fact that our students need to begin preparing for the CS careers that are waiting for them. CS is not just a passing phase; it's an essential academic tool for life. Our young learners need to develop the foundations of CS to prepare them for middle and high school exams. Just having an interest in computers is no longer enough- ALL Careers will have some form of CS. Navigating life as adults will require some knowledge of CS, and we must begin to prepare these young ones now. CS should be included in the curriculum in conjunction with the other "Big 3," reading, writing, and arithmetic. 


What are some successes and challenges you have experienced in getting to where you are now?

I took the initiative to begin computer clubs for grades K-5, and I took the initiative to search and engage in PD that would help me to help young learners. My continuing challenges are to secure consistent financial support and to get time allotted to provide this most important academic subject.


What's working well? What are you proud of?

I am proud of my students. They have persevered despite the challenges of the pandemic and having to conduct a computer club via ZOOM. Students still produced projects in, completed the Amazon coding challenge, and created computers out of simple materials.


Do you have advice or suggestions for others?

Always be on the lookout for learning opportunities for yourself; increase your skill set so you're better equipped to help your students! And join CSTA; it provides space, networking, and information.


Do you have ideas for the near future?

My goal is to be a part of a cohort to create a Foundations of CS curriculum for elementary students, based on CSTA standards.

Dianne O'Grady-Cunniff, dogrady at usmd dot edu
Director, Maryland Center for Computing Education

Dr. Megean Garvin, mgarvin at usmd dot edu
Director of Research, Maryland Center for Computing Education

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Maryland Center for Computing Education
3300 Metzerott Rd. Adelphi, MD 20783
MCCE received initial support from the National Science Foundation, (MSP)2 Grant No. 0831970.