Meet Ivette! Here's How She's Impacting Her Community after Code 201

Meet Ivette Cortez! Knowing the importance of STEM education for young students, she wanted to add programming to her skill set and to her curriculum as a middle school language instructor. After finishing Code 201, she integrated more technology into her classroom, organized after-school coding classes, and started working with ChickTech. Learn more about her journey and how she’s using her education to benefit her community!

Hi Ivette! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us. What were you doing before Code Fellows?

Hello! I am so excited to share my story with my Code Fellows community. Before starting my path at Code Fellows, I was a classroom teacher. I taught middle school languages (English and Spanish) in the White Center neighborhood in Seattle and in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago for over 10 years.

Why did you decide to study coding, and why Code Fellows over other learning methods?

I realized that while EdTech is expanding and innovating education, schools are not. I was struggling with this reality. I liked sharing knowledge with young adults and I liked working on social projects with my students, but I was no longer pleased with how slowly education moves. I needed to re-focus on my love for technology.

Still, I was a fearful. I was not in the best place in my personal life, or in my educational career in general. I went to the Intro to Web Development class at Code Fellows on a whim and was delighted to meet people like myself—people who were ready for a change. I learned that I would be eligible to apply for a Diversity Scholarship, so I did! Thankfully, I was the recipient of the scholarship and began Code 201 in July of 2017!

What was your favorite part of Code 201?

My absolute favorite part was my cohort. The bond that we created was incredibly beneficial as we navigated the challenges that our instructor laid before us. To this day, a group of us will get together and share our adventures and challenges in the world of tech. We still laugh about our project, Salmon Cookies!

What was the most helpful skill that you learned on campus that you are now using in your work?

The best skill gained from my time at Code Fellows is Googling. That sounds funny, but it’s true! In the time between my campus tour and my first day of Code 201, I continued to use Codecademy to learn basics and be ready for day one. Before Code 201, I thought programmers knew everything there was to know just because they do.

Then Code 201 happened. It taught me to be open to asking or searching for help. I learned that programmers Google all the time and that’s okay.

You decided to take what you learned in Code 201 and apply it to your teaching career. Can you share more about that process?

After completing Code 201, I had to return to my work in the classroom. This time I decided that I would take it upon myself to use more technology in the classroom. I noticed a difference in student participation, concept application, and understanding in the classroom. After showing my students one of my coding projects, they were so excited to learn how it all works. I decided to build my own middle school-centered web development curriculum. I didn’t think it would become so popular! After my second group of students, another Code Fellows alumna and I formed Coding Falcons. We now provide basic web development classes after school for students in Seattle’s diverse White Center neighborhood. I took what I learned in Code 201 to address the diversity gap in tech, and the tech education gap in public middle schools.

It’s awesome how you’re using your training to impact your community! What has surprised you most about teaching coding skills to middle school students?

I am most surprised by how much perseverance middle schoolers demonstrate when they are building their sites pixel by pixel. Teaching middle schoolers to use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript without using platforms aimed at youth takes a bit more time, but it’s totally possible! They can do it! They feel so much more successful having built everything themselves from the ground up. It gives them an additional sense of pride in themselves.

You’re also involved with ChickTech. Can you tell us about your work with them?

After my first Coding Falcons group ended, I noticed an announcement on ChickTech’s page where they were in search of leaders for workshops. I had been a volunteer for ChickTech and an attendee of ChickTech events, but had never led any sort of workshop or event. I nervously reached out, and, to my surprise, they called back!

In December 2017, I walked into a room of 15 to 20 girls to leap into my newest experience: Workshop Lead! After a successful weekend of programming with high school girls, I kept in touch with ChickTech leadership and a couple of months later I was offered a position as the Seattle branch Youth Program Manager. Now I do a little bit of everything I love to do!

In what ways did your time at Code Fellows help you in your career?

Code Fellows did wonders for my self confidence. As a former educator, I had a strong set of soft skills. What I lacked was the confidence to speak up, stand up, and demand to be heard. Unfortunately, I think many women face the same challenge, especially in the world of tech. It’s a boys club.

At Code Fellows, I quickly found a supportive environment, a cohort willing to listen and encourage me, and—most importantly—a platform for confidence via an internal student Slack channel. Through this channel, we encouraged each other, picked each other up, and pushed each other to speak up when there were challenges arising.

What advice do you give your students as they learn to code?

Be open to failure. Learning how to code is fun, but it requires you to learn how to be patient with yourself. This will become most evident when you start your relationship with CSS for the first time—there will be many sleepless nights.

If someone was considering applying to Code Fellows, what would you tell them?

I would encourage them to do it! Code Fellows makes the best effort to create a welcoming environment for each individual. Speaking from a woman’s perspective, I know that there is a strong desire to foster a strong female presence and voice. This is a great place to learn, grow, and be.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Let’s keep forming these connections. Let’s keep supporting programs that promote diversity in tech, and programs that provide support for women, youth, and underrepresented areas everywhere. Code Fellows continues to provide a safe place for all to grow, but there is so much more that needs to be done. Let’s continue to work together. Let’s continue changing the tech world.


Thanks for sharing, Ivette! If you’d like to learn more about how to add code to your skill set, get in touch!

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