Guest blog by Antoinette Davis, Training Manager & Curriculum Developer for the Technology Career Program at TechBridge, Inc.
As a nonprofit, our mission is to break the cycle of generational poverty through the innovative use of technology to transform nonprofits and community impact. Our vision is to measurably alleviate poverty within communities in the United States.
My journey to education has been an interesting one as most of my background is solely in Web Development. I have always had a passion for sharing my knowledge with others, and being a part of their journey to becoming better developers. My deep dive into education, and understanding how I can make a difference in this space, began in June 2020. During this short amount of time I have had the opportunity to lead delivering AZ 900 at TCP with a current pass rate of 85%. My work does not stop here though! I am always looking for ways to better the experience for our students.
I have to stop and say thank you to my amazing team at TechBridge and my mentor, Sheena Allen, for always pushing me to be better. Because of their leadership, I have the confidence and drive to be the instructor I need to be for my students! They expect greatness from me and I expect the same from ALL students of TCP!
TechBridge was granted access to the MSLE program via Microsoft Accelerate: Atlanta; Microsoft’s initiative to help communities close the digital skills gap. With this partnership TCP added Azure Fundamentals to our curriculum in June 2020. It has shown to be a great entry level point for most of our Cloud courses. Here is what some of my students have to say about the AZ 900 course:
“I am so grateful for my wonderful support network that I found through TechBridge, Inc. & Antoinette Davis for introducing me to cloud, as it has opened up a new world for me.” - Zenaida Johnson
“I came into the Technology Career Program with little to no knowledge about technology. Having Toni as an instructor helped blaze a path towards my first certification, Microsoft Azure Fundamentals. She was a stern but fair leader. Our feedback on her teaching style was taken into consideration, followed by immediate action. She did not allow us to come to her with surface level inquiries outside of class time. You had to show proof that you dug deep within yourself and the plethora of resources provided before asking for one on one help. She had high expectations of the class and constantly reminded us that success was the only option. Success is what my peers and I have achieved under her leadership.” Christa Davoll
“Toni was my instructor for Azure Fundamentals. During my matriculation through the Technology Careers Program Toni displayed an unrivaled knowledge of the source material which allowed her to present it in an easily digestible format. Under her tutelage I went from not understanding what exactly a “cloud” was to passing my proctored exam on the first try. Without the leadership & guidance from Toni I’m not sure I would have obtained the same results and I will forever be grateful for all that she did for our class.” - Curtis Guyton
Microsoft Learn for Educators gave me the tools and training material I needed to successfully teach our Azure Fundamentals course. Our students feel prepared to enter the job market using their certificates and knowledge gained during our cohort. Our success thus far can be attributed to:
- Up-to-date information and resources provided by MSLE
- High quality reading material and hands on labs through the Microsoft Learn platform
- Freedom to customize curriculum to meet the needs of our learners (Some programs do not allow this)
- Continuous support from the MSLE team
Breaking Barriers For Our Students
Because of the mission of our non-profit, the perfect candidate for our program does not look like your typical college or “tech” student. Their ages range from 18 - 50+ and the amount of tech experience varies in every class. Most have never dealt with a computer before. Others have never heard of the cloud. For a lot of them, TCP is the first step to getting familiar with technology, and this makes our job as instructors…. interesting. The way I would talk to one of my colleagues about how the terms Virtual Machine and a server are connected, is TOTALLY different than the way I would have to teach it to one of our students.
The first step to creating success for our students is meeting them exactly where they are. Addressing the gaps in their understanding of the basics before we dig into AZ 900 content. Our AZ 900 course is normally taught in 45 hours with the first 9 hours or so being an introduction to common tech practices and the cloud in general. When I review different resources, the first question I have to ask myself is, “What terminology do I already understand because of my years of experience in this industry?” Once I am able to answer that, I have a pretty good idea of where to start. The course is taught at a very fast pace, but everyone leaves with a good understanding of all topics.
On day one we cover what an on premise solution looks like for someone with a need for a private server. They build an on premise ( private cloud ) solution, giving them insights to building complete solutions, cost, security for assets purchased, etc. I always get really weird looks when I assign this assignment! Once the students get the assignment done, and I explain how what they built in class can be done in Azure, the light bulbs start going off. We spend the next couple of days talking about the different components of their on premise solution, then we move on to Azure content starting with basic Cloud Concepts.
Thorough content and quality labs give our students an understanding of the why and how of Azure. Simple questions like: “Why do I need a VM?” & “Now that I know why, how do I spin up that resource?” is how I recommend my students approach learning the material. The goal is employment for all, and having this mindset when it comes to learning is how we get it done.
“As a former TCP student turned instructor, understanding how to effectively solve problems was a huge part of doing well in the cohort and how I deliver content now. I cannot recall the amount of errors I’ve encountered or have been clueless about how to initially solve a problem. In talking about some of her previous experience, Toni would say “I may not know the answer now, but I know where to find the answers.” I have taken on a lot of this confidence myself and stress to others how much this attitude is important in gaining success”. - Kharee Smith
Our Plans For The Future
The courses we deliver depend on what’s needed in the job market. I am constantly meeting with my team to understand the needs of our market so I can give my input on content needs and probability of success for our students. We have interest in teaching more Administrator, Developer, DevOps, and AI courses. I am personally looking forward to learning more about the Developer and DevOps tracks. Being a student first allows me to take in the content from a different perspective. Developing a curriculum for TCP students based on my own experience allows me to make our classes a little more personable. I think our students appreciate the fact that their instructor took the course before they did. We try our best to always be open to sharing how we were able to successfully pass the exam.
Our next Cloud course will begin this summer and I am super excited to continue impacting the lives of our community. The students will be challenged to learn AZ 900 Azure Fundamentals and AZ 104 Azure Administrator in 12 weeks. The goal is an 85% pass rate on both exams and employment! Want to know how they finish up? Connect with me on LinkedIn to keep up with their journey! I encourage you to sign up for Microsoft Learn for Educators (MSLE) program here.