Blog Post

From Latin to Coding: A Teachers’ Journey (Part 2)

My first lesson at the New York Code and Design Academy (NYCDA) hooked me on computer science. The instructor exclaimed that coding was a language with its own grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. Since I am a Latin teacher and a student of several languages, I couldn't wait to see if that statement was true. The instructor’s comparison to language, and specifically to a language that only computers would understand, triggered my interest in computing. After each class, I would go home and happily work on the assignments. Since it was summer vacation, I stayed up late to complete them and learn the material. I made it my goal to become a coder. Even as I write this blog post, I can’t help but recall my days and nights in college, learning Latin; my experience of learning Latin was parallel to my experience learning how to code.

Just like my Latin studies where I would stay up late into the night memorizing vocabulary, paradigms, grammar, and syntax, I found myself learning the vocabulary and syntax of programming languages, which included HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Latin and coding are similar in that they are both languages, but there are more differences between them. In Latin, I was learning to read and write, whereas in coding, I was learning to create websites and web applications. Coding was not only a skill, but it had a practical use, whereas my fluency in Latin was only a skill. Don’t get me wrong; Latin is a skill that I value and it is the key to my career as a teacher (I have a teaching certificate in Latin!). Learning to code, however, would open doors that I never knew existed.

I gave you all a taste of those opportunities in my previous blog post. I’m truly indebted to my brother, Jeremy Snepar, the CEO of NYCDA, who nudged me to take his course. What I found at NYCDA was a community of adults who were encouraged by their employers or had decided themselves that they should learn how to code. NYCDA created a learning environment that allowed me to flourish in my CS studies. Developers from New York City’s software companies and universities taught me, and I completed my assignments and projects with the aid of a community of developers and students who frequented NYCDA’s offices in downtown Manhattan. Once I graduated from their front-end website development course, it was only a matter of time that I’d become involved with the CS community in New York City. 

One may ask what motivated my brother to encourage me to take his course at NYCDA? Well, it came during my first semester of teaching at Williamsburg Charter High School (WCHS). As I’m sure most of you educators know, the first year of teaching is the hardest. I think my brother had enough of my complaining and asked me to give coding a try. I was 25 at the time, so I was like “why not!” I never knew that I’d fall in love with it. I grew to love it so much that I brought it to WCHS when administration asked me to become a facilitator of an after-school club or sport. Thus, the Coding Club was born, and a new love for teaching came along with it. Stay tuned to my next post to hear about the Coding Club and my journey from a Latin teacher who teaches coding.