The educator award recognizes teachers for their efforts to promote gender equity in computing. Since 2011, more than 500 educators have been recognized and have received more than $225,000 in professional development funding.
“I work diligently each year to improve my teaching skills and methods of motivation for my students,” says Debarlaben, who was an electrical engineer for twenty years before embarking on her teaching career. “I am really looking forward to my professional development opportunities.”
Debarlaben says her work to promote Computer Science to underrepresented groups was inspired by a 2016 Google report entitled “Diversity Gaps in Computer Science: Exploring the Underrepresentation of Girls, Blacks and Hispanics,” which notes that “these groups are underrepresented due to a lack of role models in Computer Science (CS), a lack of opportunity to learn CS, a lack of exposure to CS and a lack of encouragement from others to learn CS.”
To address the lack of exposure, Debarlaben organizes workshops for after school groups each year to provide opportunities to explore programming in a fun, no risk and engaging environment. To increase the visibility of role models in CS, she brings in diverse guest speakers from local companies such as Nokia and Northrop Grumman as well as Loyola alumnae such as Nicole C. Woitowich, PhD, ’04, a biologist and biochemist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine
, and Tara Larrue ’09, a Chicago-based data scientist
. To increase learning opportunities, every year Debarlaben and the Women in STEAM Club host a Girl Scout STEAM patch workshop
. “The girls not only learn about programming, but they are also exposed to high school students who serve as mentors,” she explains.
The Women in STEAM Club has also expanded learning opportunities for themselves with field trips to the Apple Store, where they participated in programming workshops, and Bank of America, where they heard from female engineers who discussed careers in Computer Science.
Debarlaben is one of 150 recipients selected from 48 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Each recipient will receive recognition, a trophy and prizes, including eligibility to apply for professional development funds.
“These educators' support goes a long way in motivating students to apply their creativity and unique perspectives as they learn computational skills. Students are often more likely to pursue computing education when they are encouraged by their educators and other adult influencers,” said NCWIT CEO and Co-founder Lucy Sanders.
“This award means a lot to me,” Debarlaben adds. “It demonstrates my passion and ability to inspire students to pursue a career in Computer Science, especially young women who are underrepresented in Computer and Technology fields.”
The impact of Debarlaben’s passion and inspiration can be found in the success of her students. Five Ramblers from the Women in STEAM Club also won an NCWIT student award. Winning this award is an honor for these young women and demonstrates their interest in technology and their ability to be leaders. Congratulations to Grace Beard ’21, Mia Aleman ’21, Amelia Dorgan ’22, Hermella Towodros ’22 and Ardyn Chin ’22.
Ardyn Chin was also selected for the Inspirit AI summer program. During the summer program’s live online video sessions, Ardyn will work in small groups with mentors from MIT and Stanford to learn the fundamentals of artificial intelligence, participate in critical discussions about ethical implications and develop a socially impactful project in domains such as healthcare, media, art and more.
“I was so proud of Ardyn for believing in herself and pursuing this opportunity,” says Debarlaben.
The ceremony for NCWIT AiC Affiliate Awards will be held on Saturday, April 24.
About NCWIT Aspirations in Computing
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community that convenes, equips, and unites change leader organizations to increase the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women — at the intersections of race/ethnicity, class, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and other historically marginalized identities — in the field of computing, particularly in terms of innovation and development.