Behind the Screen: Nazeli Hagen

Posted on July 16, 2018
Nazeli Hagen

Nazeli Hagen is an instructor at Juni Learning. She is currently pursuing her B.A. in Computer Science at Harvard University and sings in the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum.

When did you know you wanted to study Computer Science?

On the first day of my AP Computer Science A class in high school, we had to write a program to draw three circles on the screen. For some reason, I had the worst time figuring it out. But once I figured it out, that feeling of seeing it working and knowing that I made it happen — that’s what really got me into programming. I like being able to create something, and at the same time feeling like it was really logical.

What do you teach at Juni?

I teach across all levels — Scratch, all of the Python courses, and web development.

Why do you spend your time teaching with Juni?

I’ve always been a little regretful that I didn’t get into Computer Science (CS) earlier because it’s such an applicable subject. I really want to help younger students get exposed earlier, because there’s so much to learn. It’s a great way to teach problem solving. CS can be intimidating, so it’s really important for me to help people feel comfortable while they’re getting started.

At Harvard, I’m doing a joint concentration between CS and Women & Gender Studies. I’ve become really invested in how gender affects our field and the issues within it. For me, teaching with Juni is a chance to teach and encourage everyone, especially girls, to be comfortable and continue on with CS.

How has Juni impacted you?

Working with Juni has developed my passion for teaching. This summer, I’m traveling to Armenia to teach a two-week Computer Science workshop to local high school students. In the fall, I will also be a Teaching Fellow for the introductory Computer Science course at Harvard. The longer I teach, the happier I am that I made this decision to work with Juni.

When you love programming and you introduce it to somebody else, it brings back the excitement of learning it for the first time again. Juni is a really rewarding job. You’re working with real students, and you’re impacting the future of CS by getting others interested in it. It’s why this is so important to me.

What’s the impact of Juni’s classes being online?

It makes the classes more accessible for the students and the instructors. There’s also not a huge commitment compared to a AP CS class at school. It’s very low stress, so you’re focused on learning. It’s about learning and applying concepts and there’s no concern about grades, which can sometimes take away from the actual learning.

Any advice for students/parents who are interested in Juni?

Honestly, you’re never going to regret knowing something about coding, because it’s everywhere. Learning programming helps you with problem solving in every aspect of your life. For me, learning how to break big problems down into smaller problems has helped me manage my stress in college and become a more productive person. When you’re able to think about things logically, you’re able to see a clear path to a solution as opposed to being overwhelmed by a problem.

Tell us some funny moments you’ve had with your students.

This was so adorable — one of my students was 10 minutes late for his class. He felt so bad that he was apologizing the whole time. He said, “Oh, I’m so sorry! I’ll hug you!” and he tried to hug me through the video camera. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.

I also really liked teaching a group of three eighth graders who were learning Python. As I was wrapping up class one day, they started asking me about my studies. One of my students asked about when I got into programming, and I told her I started in my junior year of high school. She responded with, “Then how did you get into Harvard?!”

As a woman, why do you think Juni works well for girls?

First of all, I think that one-on-one or small group classes are very different than the typical classroom setting. For girls, I feel that a lot of times we think we shouldn’t speak up if we’re going to get the wrong answer. If it’s one-on-one, you are forced to guess and to experiment. Also, having female CS teachers to look up to and to teach you is very encouraging. I think that CS can be an intimidating field and to work with people who have gone through it is inspiring.

What do you do for fun?

I’ve been singing in a choir since I was 8. I love being part of it — it connects you with people and makes you feel like you’re part of a community. I also love spending time with my family and friends and traveling around the world.