Behind the Screen: Daniela Gonzalez
Daniela Gonzalez is an instructor at Juni Learning. She is currently pursuing her B.S. in Computer Science at Stanford University and enjoys hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, painting, and reading.
Why do you spend your time teaching with Juni?
I have always been interested in education and enjoyed working with kids. I once volunteered at a day-long coding camp for high school girls at Stanford. One student asked me afterward, “What do I do now? How can I learn more programming?” It made me realize that the fact that people had always encouraged me to pursue computer science is a huge gift.
I want to give back and that’s one of the things I really love about Juni — being able to give that encouragement to other kids. In particular, I enjoy teaching girls and seeing their confidence grow as they learn how to code. Often, halfway through a project, they’ll ask me, “Is this right?” and I’ll say, “Let’s run it and find out!” They see how they can take matters into their own hands and test it out. If it doesn’t work, we can figure out how to fix it together.
What do you think is most unique about Juni?
I think one of the most unique things is how much we can adapt to our students. We teach at the pace that’s right for them. If they happen to be interested in a particular project or topic, we can work on that together. I have a student who loves the Marvel movies, and we wrote a program related to the Infinity Stones.
At the end of each course, the students get to design and build Master Projects with all the skills they learned. If we haven’t already been working on side projects at that point, then they get the chance to really have ownership of their own project.
What are some of your teaching principles or strategies?
One of the things I try to do a lot is ask a lot of questions. I’ll ask a question and then give a hint, even if we’re learning a new concept. For example, if we’re learning about loops in Scratch, I’ll say, “Hm, it looks like we’re using a lot of the same code blocks over and over again. What would be helpful to us right now?” They’ll say something like, “It’d be nice if we didn’t have to copy and paste this 50 times!” And then I can show them how to repeat their code using a loop.
Another thing is I try not to tell the kids if their code is right or wrong. I encourage them to test it and find out to see if its working. I teach them that they have they have the power to figure it out on their own.
Any advice for parents who are interested in Juni?
For parents, ask your kids to show you what they’ve been working on in class. They get really excited to show off their projects and they are always learning so much and doing awesome things. Even just after the trial class, they get to show off what they’ve programmed.
How has teaching with Juni impacted you?
I’ve definitely learned a lot. You have to be clear and concise in communicating with kids. Also, I’ve solidified my ability to explain fundamental CS concepts, which helps me in school too.
My students tell me, “You’re coding at Stanford? I want to do that someday!” It always reminds me to stay inquisitive and go after things I’m interested in. In particular, I remember who a student who asked me in the middle of class, “Do you know how green screens work?” I love being part of their curiosity.
Tell us some funny moments you’ve had with your students.
One of my students was taking her class at her mom’s office. During a break, she was talking to someone who works there and he remarked, “You’re nine! You coded this?!” She responded, “Of course, I totally do this all the time. I’m great at coding!” I loved how she didn’t think it was a big deal at all!
During another class, one of my students told me, “I want one of these characters to be Hei Hei.” I asked, “What’s Hei Hei?” She exclaimed, “You don’t know who Hei Hei is? You should know who Hei Hei is!” Hei Hei is the chicken from Moana. We added him in our project and she programmed him to chant a Hawaiian song. She loved it and had a lot of fun with it. I love that they’re able to customize their projects because the students are a lot more motivated when they get to build something they want.
What do you do outside of teaching with Juni?
I’m in the Stanford Outdoor Outreach Program. We take high schoolers from the Bay Area on hiking, rock climbing, and backpacking trips. We work with low-income high schools, and we use the outdoors as a means to build community. I try to lead three trips with them a year. Outside of all that, I also enjoy painting and reading!