Diversity & Inclusion
Career development / Coding / DEI / Education / Real estate

From classroom to coding bootcamp: A scholarship win will help Maryland kindergarten teacher Charnelle Evans pursue a tech career

The Bowie-based elementary school teacher was one of four winners of a scholarship from Galvanize that will be attending a full-time program to learn coding. "If someone sees me doing it, that may inspire them to do it, as well," Evans said.

Ridgeway Elementary School teacher Charnelle Evans. (Courtesy photo)
After seven years of teaching elementary school, Charnelle Evans wanted to pursue a career in tech. But she wasn’t sure how to break in until an episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast with a teacher-turned software engineer introduced a new kind of path.

“I listened to that and I was like, ‘Wow, they have coding bootcamps?’” the Bowie, Maryland, resident told Technical.ly. “I thought you had to go back to school to get a degree.”

Evans, currently a kindergarten teacher at Ridgeway Elementary School in Severn, was one of four recently-named winners of the We Stand Together scholarship from Galvanize. The software skills training provider is investing up to $1.8 million into the program as part of an effort to diversify the tech industry. Evans will use the award to attend the Hack Reactor bootcamp, a three-month, full-time intensive program that offers skills training toward becoming a JavaScript developer.

Before she decided to formally pursue a career in software development, Evans said her interest was peaked while teaching technology lessons in school, and being the go-to person in the building to fix computer problems. After listening to the podcast episode, Evans said she researched anything and everything, watching YouTube courses on coding and enrolling in an intro to computer science class at Harvard University through edX.

She sees the bootcamp not only as a chance to build her career, but also to boost her confidence in her abilities outside of the classroom.

“Because starting off as a teacher, once you become a teacher, you’re always a teacher,” Evans said. “So now I’m trying to expand my mind and think: What am I good at outside of teaching? Or, taking the things I’m good at in teaching and transferring it to other industries and other skills.”

Evans also hopes that by enrolling in the program and pursuing a coding career, her students can see more opportunities for themselves in tech.

“You really don’t see Black women in the tech industry, so that was another thing that [made me think] ‘Maybe this isn’t for me,'” Evans said. “But now that I have this opportunity it’s like, okay, somebody believes in me, I believe in me. We can do this. We can make a change, and then maybe if someone sees me doing it, that may inspire them to do it, as well.”

As Evans gears up for the bootcamp, she believes her non-traditional background is an asset for the tech industry. She said she can bring both soft skills from teaching and the ability to break down large concepts into specific, tangible goals that she has honed in lesson planning.

“There’s a lot that I might see a little bit differently than other people who have been in tech for years just because I do have that non-traditional background,” Evans said. “But I think that could be a good thing to have a different set of eyes and say, ‘Okay, we’re looking at this from two different viewpoints, how can we work together to reach our goals together’?’”

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