CSA story: Anna Sessarego-Mercer

11 July 2022

The second interview of our Computer Science Accelerator (CSA) Programme graduate series is with Anna Sessarego-Mercer, a 45-year-old mum of two. She is an early career teacher of science and computer science.

Hello, How did you go from getting a master’s in chemistry to deciding to teach computing?

Four years ago I left self-employment to become a teaching assistant working one-to-one with SEND pupils and school refusers. I spent some time looking into activities a bit out of the ordinary, a bit fun, for anxious pupils to support them in the classroom, and one of the things that they and I enjoyed most was coding. It was easy to make coding accessible for my SEND pupils and it supported their literacy without them realising they were working on reading! So I’ve been attracted to computing for a while, and when my teacher training cohort was offered the Teach Computing accelerator course, I jumped at the chance!

Congratulations on having completed your subject knowledge certificate! Could you give us some insights into why you chose to enrol and how you found the experience?

The course was offered in person over two days during the October half term. So I was initially a bit concerned that it would add a lot of extra work to my load, which I felt was already fairly high as a trainee teacher. But I was surprised at how much of the course I already knew, or sort of knew and could link to my existing knowledge, just from being a computer user myself. I really enjoyed the course, too. The teacher was very engaging and pacy; it is always good to observe someone else teach, and there was pizza for lunch! If you’re a trainee teacher, I think it is a good choice to do the CS Accelerator before Christmas, because the workload does creep up when you get on to a full timetable. But there aren’t masses of homework or reading that comes with it, so provided you haven’t got assignment deadlines, you could do it at any point in the year.

Was there a particular course or activity which stood out to you?

As a not-so-secret nerd, I particularly enjoyed the bit where we took the hardware apart and put it back together again. But every part of the CS Accelerator was interesting. Computing underpins our daily lives now, whether we like and accept that or not, so an understanding of its principles is both crucial and fascinating.

You said that the certificate made you "un-turn-downable". How has completing the certificate benefited your teaching and or your students?

I got a job in the first school I applied to - in fairness, I really wanted to work at this school as it was one of my placement schools and I had loved being there - and the CSA qualification was very likely the clinching factor. The school only had space for 1 science teacher, but because I made it clear that I want to teach some CS too, they were able to make space for 1.66 science teachers and employ both candidates who were invited for interview. I think a lot more about including CS in my teaching of science now - the more teachers can link disciplines together, the more ‘sticky’ the topics become in pupils’ heads. The more links to different schemas we can make, the easier it is for the knowledge to remain. And it’s likely that pupils I teach who go into any kind of science career will use a lot of computer power! For example, my own brother - computer scientist - has just completed a project running computational chemistry experiments for research in medicine. Computing is a powerful tool and using CS is powerful knowledge!

What would you say to people who are teaching another subject who don't know if the Computer Science Accelerator (CSA) Programme is right for them?

Don’t be afraid that you will be in a room with a bunch of programming whizzkids. The course is geared for complete novices. You don’t even have to know which end of the computer is the keyboard, to begin with! Our class was really welcoming. You aren’t stepping into a male-only space - we were about half male, half female/non-gendered students. I found the acceptance of my autism really comfortable, especially as our teacher told us about their own neurodiversity really early on in the course. It would have been great to see some more Black trainees, though - let’s make diversity a priority in the CS classroom! And Teach Computing offers loads of free online training, so you can refresh and improve your subject knowledge through the year.

What are you excited about that's coming up this term?

This is the term where I get to unleash my new skills in the computer suite and I’m raring to go! My main placement school didn’t offer CS, so it’s in at the deep end for me: but I know with the backup of my department and the Teach Computing resources I’m going to be just fine. I think I’m most excited to hear about what the pupils love most about computing, how they use it in their daily lives and what they want to get out of their CS lessons. Teenagers are cool and interesting and they always bring something unexpected to a subject, so my classes and I are going to have a great time discovering computing together!

Thanks, Anna! If you are interested in learning more about our Computer Science Accelerator Programme, you can find all the details you need on the CS Accelerator webpage.