Volunteer FAQ


Who can volunteer?

Anyone with a computer science (CS) degree or equivalent industry experience who wants to give back to the community by teaching high school CS can apply. The entire tech community is coming together to solve the problem of computer science education!

If you are a junior or senior in college currently studying computer science, there may also be opportunities for you to participate in a teaching assistant role.

Do I need certification or to take education classes?

No, as long as you are willing to learn to teach high school CS through our summer training program.

Is TEALS a Microsoft program?

Yes, TEALS is a part of Microsoft Philanthropies.  It is designed to be an industry wide initiative joining volunteers and companies across the country to help high schools build their capacity to teach CS. We are technology and language agnostic in our approach to bring the best CS curricula  with a proven track record to our partner high schools.

TEALS will take the input and participation of the whole tech community to meet the challenge of bringing CS education to all high schools. The TEALS Introduction to Computer Science curriculum is  based on UC Berkeley’s CS10 Beauty and Joy of Computing and the AP CS A (Java) curriculum is based on University of Washington CSE 142 and 143 computer science classes. TEALS also works with numerous partner organizations, companies and with individuals who come from hundreds of different organizations.

Do I have to work for Microsoft to volunteer?

No. TEALS is designed for everyone. As long as you have a CS background, and want to help solve this problem together. We have been overwhelmed by the response from volunteers everywhere. In fact, 75% of TEALS volunteers are non-Microsoft employees.

Schedule and Time Commitment

How often will I teach?

Depending on the needs of the school and partner teacher, TEALS is able to provide 3 different models of support that each require different amounts of commitment.

The Co-Teaching Model is the standard TEALS model and represents the largest need from our partner schools. It also represents the largest time commitment.

A TEALS Co-Teaching team consists of 3-4 volunteers plus the classroom teacher. On any given day, at least 1 volunteer should be in class along with the teacher, which means you should expect to be present half the time the class meets. In some schools, class meets every day. In others, it meets on alternating days. The teaching team is free to manage their own schedule according to the needs of team members and the school teacher.

The Teaching Assistants Model is designed to help teachers with experience leading CS lessons on their own that still need in-class support.

A TEALS TA team consists of 1-2 volunteers, coming in 1-2 times a week. TAs are not expected to lead lessons, but may occasionally serve as a guest lecturers and lead career talks. TAs add value by helping students with their projects, adding industry exposure, building excitement for CS at their school, and providing support for the teacher through project assistance, grading, and answering student questions.

The Consulting Support Model is designed for experienced computer science teachers, confident in all aspects of running their own course, that want a dedicated support resource available outside of class.

In the Consulting Support Model, TEALS pairs a volunteer with a teacher to help plan lessons and answer questions about content or grading, usually remotely. A TEALS Consultant may occasionally visit or video conference with the class to provide a guest lecture or career talk.

What’s the time commitment like?

TEALS is a big commitment – there’s no way around that. Participating in TEALS as part of a classroom team will require you to put in thought, time and energy for a whole year.

Each volunteer’s experience is different and can vary depending on the level of support the partner teacher needs.

For our Co-Teaching Model, the model most of our partner schools participate in, we estimate a typical first-year commitment of around 280 hours including training, teaching time, prep / grading, and the time added to your commute.

Volunteers participating in the Teaching Assistant (TA) Model will, on average, spend less time participating than volunteers in the Co-Teaching Model. The exact time commitment will vary based on the individual needs of your teacher, but you should expect to be visiting class 1-2 times a week and to be spending a few hours a week assisting your teacher outside of class.

The Consulting Support Model will require the lowest time commitment. You will be communicating regularly with your teacher about the class and supporting them in a variety of ways. Due to the nature of this model, you should expect the number of hours you spend to vary and coincide with key events in the classroom.

While volunteering with TEALS is a one-year commitment, many choose to return for multiple years of service. Volunteers often find that the 2nd year is much easier and less demanding in terms of time commitment.

For more information, check out the Volunteer Guide, attend an information session, or view a past information session online.

When do I teach?

Our partner schools agree to offer their TEALS CS early in the day, typically 1st period. Of course, school schedules vary tremendously. We aim for courses taught between 7:30am and 9:30am.

Why so early in the morning?

We specifically designed this so that you don’t have to give up your day job to teach CS. The class you teach will end by 9:30am or so to give you plenty of time to get to work. In fact, many of our volunteers report that when they get to their office, they are the first one there. Hmm…

Teaching and Curriculum

What’s the curriculum?

Our partner schools select from two TEALS courses: Intro CS (“Introduction to Computer Science”) and AP CS A (“Introduction to Java Programming”).

Intro CS consists of two 1-semester long courses. The first semester covers the first 10 weeks of the UC Berkeley CS 10 course, “The Beauty and Joy of Computing.” It uses the graphical programming language Snap! Think conceptual physics – more breadth than depth – but for CS. The second semester transitions from Snap! to Python.

AP CS A is a rigorous introductory programming course taught in Java as mandated by The College Board. It’s similar to the first-semester programming course a college CS major would take, but stretched over a high school year. We use the University of Washington textbook, Building Java Programs. http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/sub_compscia.html

Some schools in the Teaching Assistants (TA) model use other curricula. When this is the case we expect those schools to work with volunteers around their curriculum materials and provide the support needed to be successful in the classroom.

What’s the difference between a teacher and TA?

As part of placement in a teaching team, volunteers are assigned one of two roles: teacher and teaching assistant (TA). Teachers and TAs both attend class, assist in grading, and work with students during lab. Teachers prepare and deliver lessons, while TAs focus on assisting students during lab work. The TA time commitment outside of class is slightly smaller than that of the teacher.

Will there be a certified teacher in the room?

Yes, the aim of TEALS is to teach the kids and at the same time train a classroom teacher so they are able to teach CS on their own in the future. The classroom teacher brings their experience and skill in pedagogy and classroom management, while you bring expertise in the subject area. The partnership is a two-way street – expect to learn a lot!

How big are the classes usually?

We work with our partner schools to set class sizes. Most classes are 20-30 students. Some classes are smaller, especially classes at small schools and AP classes.

Which schools does TEALS partner with?

TEALS partners with all kinds of schools in all kinds of places. In the 2015-16 school year, we are serving 162 schools in 17states and DC. Our 550 volunteers directly impacted over 6,000 students. Our partner schools were located in: AZ, CA, CO, DC, IL, IN, KY, MA, MI, MN, NY, NC, ND, OR, SC, TX, UT, VA, WA. TEALS partners with public, private and charter schools in urban, suburban and rural settings.

For a complete list of partner schools visit https://www.tealsk12.org/volunteers/.

What’s this “remote” thing?

There are thousands of high schools in areas without a local pool of CS talent. We offer them a teaching team based in another region who can participate in the classroom via teleconferencing software (multi-party voice/video chat with screen-sharing). TEALS will pay for your travel to visit your remote school twice in a school year to meet your teacher and students! You will have to coordinate with your company and likely take vacation days to do so – you do not get free time from TEALS.

You can see a video of a remote class here. To accommodate the challenge of not being physically present, we maintain a lower student-to-instructor ratio in remote classes. Many of our remote schools are in rural areas, with no access to any kind of computer science education (before TEALS that is) or any access to tech professionals in industry.

Training and Support

What’s the deal with summer training?

The summer is a critical time to assemble your teaching team and learn how to be an effective instructor of computer science. Training consists of roughly 20 hours of in-person and online sessions, plus team meetings and homework. It’s about 40 hours total, spread out from June through August.

We’ll teach you about the curriculum, classroom management strategies, pedagogical techniques, and the various nuts and bolts you need to run a great CS class. Along with your teaching team, you’ll create a Classroom Plan and use our curriculum materials to plan out your year. You’ll also get hands-on practice and feedback. Training is mandatory for first-time TEALS volunteers. If you’re not ready, we can’t put you in the classroom.

Is there mentoring during the school year?

Your partner school will provide an experienced (non-CS) observer to give feedback on your teaching several times during the first semester. Additionally, we encourage your partner classroom teacher to give you feedback on a day-to-day basis.

Most teaching teams will receive at least one visit from your TEALS Regional Manager, who will also provide feedback and ongoing support. If you have a TEALS related problem your Regional Manager can help you.

Classroom teachers and volunteers ask and answer questions, and share wisdom, advice and anecdotes in our online community.

Finally, TEALS runs monthly meetups and training sessions during the school year on various teaching topics.

What else does TEALS provide to make my CS class more awesome?

TEALS provides swag support for our Co-Teaching and Teaching Assistant Model schools. We send them custom class t-shirts, candy, stickers, and smaller prizes to give away. Our Co-Teaching schools also receive a big raffle prize to help build excitement for their new CS program. Don’t worry! We’ll go over how to run a student raffle in training.

All of our schools receive help in setting up college/career talks in your class. In most regions, we also organize a major field trip in the spring that current TEALS students are invited to attend.

Will I get reimbursed for my travel expenses?

Yes, if your school is in the Co-Teaching Model . The stipend is an annual total of $5000 per teaching team split evenly amongst the volunteers at the school. With a standard team of 4 volunteers, this would mean each volunteer receives $1,250 for the school year. Schools may require you to sign a contract and participate in a background check.

Schools in the Teaching Assistant Model and the Consulting Support Model are not required to pay the stipend. However, these schools are required to reimburse you for any expenses you incur that are required by the school in order for you to participate. These could include backgrounds checks, finger printing, etc.

Application and Placement

What’s the application process like?

TEALS begins recruiting volunteers for the upcoming school year in mid-March and holds information sessions in-person and online. We strongly encourage you to attend one. After the session, go home, talk to your family/friends/pets, and talk to your manager. Think about whether TEALS excites you and can fit into your life. If so, click here to apply now for the 2016-17 school year.

What’s in the application?

We ask for contact information, your academic and professional background, your résumé and headshot, and your teaching preferences. You’ll see the complete list of TEALS partner schools and tell us which ones you’d like to work with to build a CS program.

There’s an interview?

Yes, conducted by the TEALS Regional Manager for your area. The interview is typically 15-20 minutes. Many partner schools send a representative to help make sure they get volunteers that will fit in well at their school. We won’t ask you how many windows there are in New York City, or how to move a mountain 15 feet to the left. But we might ask you to explain the difference between a Do loop and a While loop as if we were 15 year olds with no programming experience.

What’s the timeline?

TEALS conducts volunteer interviews in each geographic region between April and May. We’ll announce final volunteer placements around the end of May, and then we get off and running with summer training the 2nd week of June. The school year typically begins in late August or early September and continues through May or June.

What if I missed the deadline?

Apply anyway. We often have positions open up throughout the school year. When you submit an application, a Regional Manager will reach out and let you know what your options are.

Are there any other ways to get involved?

Volunteer instructors are by far our biggest need. We understand that the large commitment isn’t for anybody. If you can’t make the commitment, here are some other ways you can help the cause:

  • Spread the word: tell your friends and colleagues about TEALS and encourage them to sign up
  • Host a recruiting talk at your company: contact a TEALS Regional Manager and we’ll have someone come give a talk.
  • Host a booth at one of our CS Opportunity Fairs in the spring: we need companies, colleges, and extra-curricular CS programs to participate in our spring field trips.
  • Connect us to schools: If you know a school that doesn’t have a CS teacher, but wants to teach CS, let us know!
  • Help out with an Hour of Code: in December, schools around the world participate in the Hour of Code and TEALS tries to help them by providing volunteers for one-time engagements.