Congratulations to Priya Rajagopal, this year’s winner of the Connecticut chapter of the National Center for Women in Information Technology’s Aspirations in Computing Educator Award! 
Priya is a technology educator at the Connecticut River Academy (CTRA) in East Hartford, where she currently teaches a freshman course called foundations of technology, an introductory course in computer science and robotics, and an advanced course in computer science and robotics. 
Priya uses the introduction to technology course that all freshmen take to motivate students, especially girls, to continue their studies in technology. While working at CTRA, Priya pursued her masters degree and focused her research on gender equity in computer science. Through this, she found two main challenges to recruiting more girls to advanced manufacturing and computer science courses. Firstly, girls were reluctant to sign up for these courses in the first place. So, when girls meet with their school counselors to choose courses, Priya attends as many of these meetings as possible to provide extra support and encouragement to students interested in taking those courses. Secondly, Priya wanted to create a larger community of girls all interested in computer science, so she started a chapter of Girls Who Code at her school to give more extra-curricular opportunities to students interested in CS. Her club runs workshops for other students on magnet theme days, visits middle and elementary school students, and does robotics demonstrations to get students interested in hands-on computer science work.
CTRA has an early-college focus with many dual-enrollment opportunities for students. However, when Priya was hired, the school did not have a computer science pathway. Priya developed the introduction to computer science course so that it could be articulated with Goodwin College and her students could earn college credit. She attributes the course’s success in part to a supportive administration who trusted her to use her knowledge and expertise to meet her goals. 
Priya holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and worked as a software engineer for several years. When she immigrated to the United States, Priya took some time to reflect on what she wanted out of her career and the experiences that she found most enriching and valuable. She eventually went back to software engineering but felt like something was missing. Priya has long had an interest in education and a passion for understanding what works and what doesn’t and improving educational outcomes for students. So, Priya decided to make a career change and worked for the Advanced Math and Science Academy charter school in Marlboro, Massachusetts, where she built a computer science program. After that, Priya moved to Connecticut and went through the Alternate Route to Certification program to earn her Technology Education certification in Connecticut.
Priya has clearly had an incredible impact on her school community, where 40% of her students in computer science and advanced manufacturing courses identify as female. Please join us in congratulating Priya on creating a fun, equitable, and engaging learning environment for students of all identities.