TheCoderSchool opens in Ashburn with after-school coding programs for local students
When it comes to local after-school programs, there is no question that there are a lot to choose from. Art classes, music lessons and sports practices are just a few that come to mind.
But with recent emphasis in educational settings on STEM education, there’s one topic that comes up as an important skill for students time and time again: coding.
Chad and Ellen Hamel saw the potential in the Northern Virginia area to reach more local children with the lessons of coding, especially with Loudoun County Public Schools starting to push more coding in its curriculum and the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington. So, they decided to open Virginia’s first location of TheCoderSchool.
“It’s a passion project for us because we really want kids coding,” says Chad Hamel, a co-owner and operator of TheCoderSchool.
Chad Hamel, a local veterinarian, and his wife, Ellen Hamel, a local nurse, have both worked in the health care industry for nearly 20 years and have watched technology transform their jobs over time. Although they don’t have college degrees in coding or computer science, they believe strongly in offering the opportunity in an area that Chad refers to as, “a data hub for the internet and high-tech industries.”
“There’s a significant deficiency of high-quality coders out there,” says Chad. “It’s a skill that’s needed now, but also in the future as those jobs continue to grow.”
The location’s technical adviser is Stevens Miller, who holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Amherst College, a master’s degree in computer science from the Stevens Institute of Technology and is a Unity-certified developer. Working alongside Miller are other teachers, of which, according to Chad, 85% have college degrees in computer science.
Also, says Chad, TheCoderSchool prides itself on its low student-teacher ratios (two-to-one in lessons and six-to-one in classroom settings), so students can feel confident in learning the necessary skills and climb the “foundational tree” that includes evolving lessons on how the internet works, website development, game creation and more.
No previous coding experience is required to enroll your child, and since kids can be challenging with long-term commitments, there’s even a free trial where local students can try lessons, get their hands on the programming and understand what coding is all about.
“We want kids to be excited and to be fired up about learning,” says Chad. “And if your child is ready and interested, we are not cookie-cutter, so we can provide them with the opportunity to fit a curriculum, or a program or a coach into their life and get the foundational skills of coding.”
In the future, look out for partnerships with local nonprofits that will combine intellectual and physical activity for after-school participants. Ellen is a firm believer in instilling wellness behaviors in children from an early age, and is looking to partner with local martial arts locations, among others.
Until then, you can enroll or learn more about TheCoderSchool’s local offerings on its website. Plus, don’t miss the mascot, “Magellan, theCodingAlpaca,” who doesn’t make appearances at the actual Ashburn location, but does live on the Hamels’ 10-acre farm (with four alpaca siblings) in Round Hill, alongside their two young sons. // TheCoderSchool Ashburn: 42841 Creek View Plaza, Suite 110, Ashburn
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