How Teaching Computer Science Completely Changed My Life
I got my first taste of being a digital nomad while I was student teaching in New Zealand. I had fast-tracked my undergrad program so I could graduate early, and had technically already walked in commencement when I flew out to Auckland.
It was breathtaking. Every weekend, my hosts would take me somewhere new—I saw Cathedral Cove and Cape Reinga, Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty. I took a boat through bioluminescent caves and toured the Hobbiton movie set. New Zealand…. ruined me. In the best of ways.
We would all come home late on Sunday night, then wake up for a breakfast of muesli and tea before leaving to watch the sun rise over the ocean before school. I’d sit at the extra desk in the Year 9 classroom and daydream, eyes wandering across the gorgeous mountains through the windows. It almost… felt like a waste, staying inside and teaching grammar.
When I made it back to the States, I spent the next semester substitute teaching, coaching preschool gymnastics, and leading horseback train rides on the weekends. I felt restless, and couldn’t find a school that was hiring in the English department, so it was time to shift gears.
The computer science job was almost an accident. I thought I was applying for a librarian position, but found out during the interview that the building was being closed for repairs that year…. which meant my only library duties involved packing all the books and telling the students, “Sorry, you can’t check anything out today…or ever.”
Instead, the students came to my empty room with their computers. What happened next was magic.
We found programs that played like games while sharpening math skills. We learned about science and engineering careers with our big wall of “STEM Friends,” who we got to interview once a week. We competed in the Hour of Code, and learned how to stay safe online with Google’s Internet of Awesome course.
And I… learned how to code. Just the basics, really, but this entire world of computer science suddenly felt like a playground. I got to learn along with these 3rd graders, and if they could do it, I could do it too.
In a way, I felt like I was in New Zealand again. I would troubleshoot computer problems during the school day, then race home to learn more custom CSS for building Squarespace websites.
Teaching in New Zealand gave me a taste of location independence and taught me how to squeeze little adventures into every single day. Teaching computer science reminded me that learning is play, that technology is for everyone, and that I could still find joy in learning and communicating, even if it didn’t involve literature.
Both prompted me to take that leap at the end of the school year—to really believe that I could use my skills to root for other business owners who, like me, wanted to make a change in their life. To create an Instagram page, to create a website. To take on clients and jump into that full-time freelancer lifestyle. To travel wherever, to keep learning. And it’s been amazing.