Behind the Screen: Pratyusha Javangula

Pratyusha Javangula

Pratyusha Javangula is an instructor at Juni Learning. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Symbolic Systems at Stanford University.

When did you know you wanted to work in Computer Science?

My first computer science course in college was extremely difficult for me. I had never spent that much time on a class before. I was looking at getting a B or a B+, which I wasn’t super happy about. :) However, I was a Cognitive Science major at that time, so I thought I just had to get through it. After taking my second computer science course, I received an email about being selected to work on an independent project and to become a grader. I was so humbled and excited.

That feeling of being completely stuck on how to solve a problem, and trying and trying until you finally figure it out — that’s computer science every single day. You walk in not knowing what the challenges are going to be and which rabbit holes you’re going to fall down. But the sense of satisfaction when you finally produce something that other people can use and benefit from is super gratifying.

Why do you spend your time teaching with Juni?

I’m really passionate about mentorship and teaching. Before I started teaching with Juni, I was teaching math to 5-year-olds. We were encouraged to not talk about the correct answer, and I was a little worried about how much of an impact I was having. With my students at Juni, it’s awesome to see them develop their logic skills and ask better and better questions, especially when they see a project for the first time. It’s a really fun moment because you get to tell them, “We’re going to program this together!” and guarantee that feeling of satisfaction when you get to see firsthand the result of your work.

What do you think is most unique about Juni?

The curriculum is very uniquely designed — there’s lots of opportunities for the instructors to build in discussion questions and challenge problems for our students. I haven’t seen anything like it before.

Why do you think teaching online is beneficial?

To start, I have students from China, Singapore, and Australia. We can reach students from around the world. Surprisingly, because the classes are online and you have to focus on the screen, it allows for much more present teaching and learning. When I used to teach students in-person, it was challenging because kids want to interact with their physical space. By using just the computer, they need it to talk to me and to work on the projects, which grounds their attention in a meaningful way.

What are some of your teaching principles or strategies?

Sometimes when I can see that my students are having a hard time grasping a particular concept, I’ll let them go down the wrong rabbit hole so they can regroup after they see the errors. I think that helps solidify the correct version of the program a lot more effectively.

I ask my students for feedback on my teaching a lot. If I see that they’ve taken the initiative to do something without my encouragement, I praise them. We also talk about the differences between projects to bridge the gap between what they already know how to do and what they’re about to learn.

Any advice for students or parents who are interested in trying Juni?

I encourage you to try it. One of the most amazing things about this program is the expectation and the commitment to excellence. It’s an amazing opportunity to give your kids something that most people don’t have access to until high school or college. To see a 7-year-old grasping concepts that I struggled with when I was almost 20 years old is amazing. And, it’s never too late. Your 15-year-old kid is definitely not too old to get started. It’s too precious of a skill to not try to get some exposure.

How has teaching with Juni impacted you?

It’s been great. I talk about my students a lot. It’s encouraged me to be more patient. I’m always looking for ways I can be a better teacher. I love creating an open dialogue with my students — I want them to trust that I am there for their well-being. I feel that is one of the most important roles I play in my life right now!

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