CS coach Tonkia Bridges: “Teachers don’t have to know everything” to succeed

I always tell (students): “I don’t know everything.” What I don’t know, I’ll go find out. – Tonkia

This year Battelle is training 46 teachers in computer science. We’re able to do this thanks to the support of the national non-profit Code.org. To take you inside that training experience, we will be profiling teachers in the program all throughout the year. First up: Meet Tonkia Bridges, a teacher at Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School. Sam Bodary in our office talked to Tonkia just after TeacherCON, Code.org’s kickoff meeting for teacher-coaches held in June.

Tonkia Bridges has taught for nearly a decade in Cincinnati Public Schools. The whole time, she’s believed that two heads, or more, are better than one.

tonkia classroom
Tonkia with her students

As a student in high school and college, this same strategy helped her excel in her classes. She studied with the same group of friends throughout, helping others with the material she grasped, and asking for help when she needed it.

“I’m very analytical, so if I connect with somebody who’s very creative, I get to get pieces of creativity that I may lack… and now we’re both analytical and creative all together.”

Collaboration like this has made Bridges the teacher that she is today. In her classroom, she continues to use the same skills that she honed when she was a student.

“I’ve always been a lead learner, but I never looked at myself as a lead learner until I was at TeacherCon.”

Bridges has one of her several degrees in chemical engineering. Though she’s confident in analytical chemistry, she sees computer science as the next challenge for her as a lifelong learner.

“I had a lot of uneasiness, maybe some anxiety about the whole computer science curriculum because I didn’t major in computer science. I’m tech savvy, I love technology…but was I going to be able to teach something that I don’t know?”

She walked away from TeacherCON with one, comforting, prevailing message: “[Teachers] don’t have to know everything.”

“They do not!” said Bridges. “That’s one of the things that I always share with my students throughout the year… The difference between them and myself is that I have more experience learning than they do.”

Bridges doesn’t aim to make her entire class into computer scientists, but has a strong belief in the underlying skills that computer science can teach students. Of course, computers science is in demand, but so is critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration.

“All those things that contribute to being a better person, having better character, and also for being better students.”

She’s looking forward to how the teachers in her cohort will modify Code.org curriculum to fit each unique classroom. Sign up to hear more about their journey over the next few months.

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