Posted by Kenz Mangan on Mar 23, 2023
Meet Michelle Friend, she/her, Associate Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a member of the CSTA Board. 

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What is your name, preferred pronouns, title, and place of employment?

Michelle Friend, she/her, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, University of Nebraska at Omaha. 

What’s your favorite CS experience (e.g. teaching, research, other experience related to CS)?

I started this career as a middle school CS teacher, and that was SUCH a fantastic experience. I loved my students, I loved the creativity and intellectual challenges of CS. At that time – in the early 2000s – there was not a lot of CS in K-12 and very little knowledge about best practices. I went back to school to learn how to research so that I could answer questions about whether what I was doing was as great as I thought it was. It turns out I fell in love with research, so rather than going back to the classroom, I now train K-12 CS teachers and research CS education, which I also love.

How long have you been involved in the CSTA?

I was a founding member of CSTA, after Chris Stephenson and Lillian Israel (the true co-founders) “discovered” me at the ISTE CS SIG. I was on the board from its inception until 2012, when I stepped off to focus on grad school and to make room for others to lead, though I continue to love and support the organization. I got more actively involved again after the conference came to Omaha, and I was reminded how much I love the people and the mission.

What motivates you to be involved with CSTA?

The foundation of my involvement with CSTA is a drive for equitable educational opportunities. All students should have access to great CS education – it is a foundational discipline in our high-tech world – and that begins with support for teachers. So many CS teachers are isolated in their schools, I love that CSTA provides opportunities for community-building, meaningful professional development, and increased professionalism. Perhaps the whipped cream on the sundae of my participation is definitely the people – I’ve made wonderful friends through my work in CSTA, and they are the best part of the experience!

What have you learned that’s most interesting to you either about the CSTA or K-12 CS Education?

When I attended that very first ISTE SIG-CS meeting in 2003, I was so intimidated! As a fairly new CS teacher with little formal education, I was so afraid I wouldn’t be accepted. I was so wrong! There are many levels of experience in the community, and so many people want to share their knowledge and welcome newcomers.

What do you hope for CS education in the future? How do you believe CSTA will help in achieving this?

I continue to hope for equitable CS education at all levels. I hope that all students have access, and much more importantly, that CS education makes all students feel welcomed, valued, and capable. Just as we believe that all students can and should learn to read, I hope for a future where all students can and should learn some CS. CSTA has an important role to play in supporting teachers and advocating for CS education.