Location: Redmond, Wash.
Only one in ten K-12 schools in the U.S. teaches computer science, according to Microsoft —a stunning contrast compared to the 1.5 million computer science-related jobs that will need to be filled in the country in 2018. Kevin Wang, who taught high school in the Bay Area for three years after graduating from U-C Berkeley, is on a mission to change that. Wang took a job at Microsoft (No. 31) in 2006, but he missed teaching. His circadian rhythms did too. “I was still waking up at six in the morning because I was so used to it,” Wang says. “Software people go to work around ten, so I had a lot of free time to kill.” He started teaching first period computer science at a nearby high school in 2009, and soon, other high schools were asking for him, too.
The next school year, Wang wrangled ten friends into teaching first period computer science at four Seattle high schools. By the 2011-2012 school year, he was training and organizing 40 volunteers in 13 schools. “I was doing this in the mornings, at lunch, after work,” Wang said. “I had a decision to make.” He penned a resignation letter and sold his Porsche, preparing to make the program, called TEALS, his day job. Then, Microsoft made an offer that was impossible to turn down: Bring TEALS under the Microsoft umbrella and let the company foot the bill for the program. Wang accepted.
This school year, the program encompasses 131 schools and almost 500 volunteers, less than a quarter of whom are Microsoft employees. Many of the schools with TEALS programs are Title I schools, meaning that at least 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. “Everyone doesn’t need to be a computer scientist, but it’s important for students graduating from high school to think that it’s not magic,” Wang says.