Well before setting foot in a classroom as a computer science teacher, Chad Magendanz had huge impacts on the lives of teachers and students across Washington State. Currently, he teaches computer science at Odle Middle School and Sammamish High School with conditional certification as part of CWU’s Alternative Pathways to Teaching Program. Previously, Magendanz served on the Issaquah School Board and in the Washington State Legislature where he was the ranking member on the Education Committee and a lead negotiator for the McCleary remedy, which doubled state school funding over eight years.
When asked why he transitioned to teaching, Magendanz credits his father. “My dad set the precedent,” he said. His father encouraged all of his children to “pay it forward.” His father served in the Navy before practicing dentistry and then taught music as a second career. It was a natural fit – he came from a family of music teachers. Magendanz also served in the Navy (so does his son), working as a nuclear submarine officer (ask him about “tooling around on a submarine”). He started his tech career on one of the first laptops and creating his own software led him to Microsoft. Magendanz worked on multimedia projects, including education software, robotics, the Windows team and he helped to fix the early version of Office for Mac (thank you!).
After Magendanz left Microsoft, he explored the possibility of teaching, but he didn’t see a good fit – there was no certification that matched his military and industry experience. When he was elected to the state legislature, he wanted to open more channels for people with industry experience to teach computer science. Legislation Magendanz cosponsored that sought to alleviate teacher shortages also adopted statewide computer science teaching standards, directed the creation of a CS endorsement for educators interested in teaching the subject and expanded scholarship eligibility for educators interested in professional development in computer science.
Magendanz is very passionate about equity in tech. He saw firsthand that there were fewer opportunities for women and underserved minorities. That motivated his work in Olympia and led to the creation of grants to help close that gap. In his classroom, Magendanz engages his students in some history, talking about Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace – two women who pioneered computer science.
Magendanz wants to inspire his students to enjoy computer science! Students choose their own topics and designs for a lot of the coursework in order to see a connection between computer science and their own interests – from fashion design to horseback riding and world history to martial arts. They then get to explore it through producing podcasts, creating animation, game design and virtual reality. Speaking to Odle students in his coding class, Magendanz tells them that to be a great engineering, doctor or just about anything, a background in computer science will be helpful. “Computer science is used in just about everything we do.” Plus – it’s a lot of fun!