Computer programming instructor: 'Be daring ... make lots of mistakes'

Sarah Esper has an ambitious goal for her UC San Diego Extension courses, aimed at teaching the basics of computer science to local high school, middle school and elementary students.

Instructor Profile:
Sarah Esper, Computer Programming

“Just as Silicon Valley is the hub for startups and technology,” she said, “we’d like San Diego to become the hub of really great computer science education.”

Launched a year ago, the Extension courses allow promising young students the opportunity to learn a new skill or polish their existing skills. Plus, they earn college prep credit, a significant step for aspiring young students.

“One of our biggest challenges is making sure the students are not afraid to try things and make lots of mistakes,” said Esper. “What’s great is, if they mess up in class, they can start over. We encourage them to be daring.”

As for computer programming, which can be complex, she insists there’s little need to be wary.

“When you write code, it’s never perfect the first time,” said Esper, currently a PhD candidate at UC San Diego. “Every piece of software you write is going to have a few bugs. We teach them how to de-bug.”

A graduate of San Diego High School intent on becoming a teacher, she went on to earn her UC San Diego degree in computer science. Now she has her own company, ThoughtSTEM, which teaches computer science to young people 8-18 and provides instructor training.

“I decided it was the right time to start a company about what I do best,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to inspire as many young people as possible.”

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