WWU announces new Computer Science Bachelor of Arts in Education

Western Washington University has announced a new Computer Science Bachelor of Arts in Education (BAE) major which focuses on preparing students to become computer science teachers in middle schools and high schools.

The new program requires students to take courses in the Computer Science Department, Science Math and Technology Education (SMATE) and Western’s Woodring College of Education.

Caroline Hardin, an assistant professor of Computer Science and the program coordinator for the new major, said that she and other faculty members have been working on getting the program started for some time. Hardin began the push in January 2020.

“It took a couple of years to figure out the design, do the research to inform that, and talk and negotiate with everyone about the program: people from Woodring, SMATE and CS,” Hardin said. “We officially got it approved last fall, and this year, we accepted our first student into the major.”

Hardin said she knew she wanted to help establish a program like this one when, in 2010, she got out of the Peace Corps and wanted to become a high school computer science teacher, but she could not find any schools to help her study and specialize in teaching computer science at that level. She later got her master’s degree and doctorate, and now, 13 years later, helped establish the program at Western.

One of the students enrolled in the new program, Quin Cassella, said he is excited to not only continue to take computer science courses, but also to interact with students through his practicum.

“I want to put as much good out into the world as I can, and I felt that being a teacher was how I could do so,” Cassella said. “The CS classes are really interesting, and I am excited to get my practicum so I may start actually interacting with students.”

The program provides a flexible schedule and course load for students wanting to pursue the major. Students must take all of the required computer science courses as well as some electives within the Computer Science Department, classes studying computer science teaching methods and two practicums in SMATE, and courses in Woodring to complete the major.

Students can submit their application to Woodring after they’ve taken CSCI 145, one of the required courses for the Computer Science Major, and for the most part can take the courses in any order.

“Intro to CS ED, through SMATE, is being taught for the first time this spring, and I’ll be teaching it again in the fall,” Hardin said. “The course will just have a basic programming prerequisite, but we are hoping that lots of people will take it, even if they don’t want to be a teacher, because how to communicate technology is important, and we all end up having to train someone and stuff like that at some point.”

Hardin hopes that the program will provide a solid foundation for students in both computer science as well as in education and working with youth.

“Students in schools deserve someone who is really good at computer science, who knows how to teach it and make it equitable,” Hardin said. “That’s what we’re designing this for.”

For more information on the new Computer Science BAE, please visit the Computer Science Bachelor's of Education page or contact Program Coordinator Caroline Hardin at Caroline.Hardin@wwu.edu or Advisor Tatyana Stahler at Tatyana.Stahler@wwu.edu.