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CEDAR RAPIDS — Stacey Teltser went to college to study psychology. She’s worked as an American Sign Language interpreter.
So when she says, “I never saw myself becoming a coder,” you believe her.
Yet coding is what Teltser has done — first as a student and now as an instructor with the DeltaV Code School in Cedar Rapids.
“I’m able to use a lot of my other passions and interests with coding — psychology, music, photography and the deaf community,” Teltser said.
“All of those things, I am able to combine them with the tech industry and with my skills as a developer. I never would have expected that this would be the field I’d go into, but I am so glad I did.”
Another DeltaV program teaches students to become Help Desk or Network/System Administrators in five to nine weeks.
DeltaV’s programs are designed to teach computer skills to adults who have no previous experience in the industry — which is precisely how it caught Teltser’s attention.
After graduating from Coe College, Teltser found herself working as an ASL interpreter in Cedar Rapids. It was through that work as an interpreter she discovered DeltaV.
Later, she returned, but this time as a student rather than an interpreter.
“I dove right in, and I loved it,” she said. “I loved the atmosphere. In the tech industry, there is constant learning going on, with people saying, ‘Hey, look at this cool tool’ or ‘Look at what this person did.’ I loved that atmosphere of collaboration so much.
“As someone who wants to forever be a student of the world, continuing to learn, DeltaV seemed like the perfect place to do that.”
Many of Teltser’s fellow graduates went on to coding jobs after graduation. Teltser, however, found a different opportunity — passing on what she had learned, by joining the DeltaV staff as an instructor.
Teltser is focused on a new DeltaV pilot program with the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville.
Partnering with the Iowa Department of Corrections, and funded by a grant from Google.org, DeltaV aims to teach inmates how to code. When they are released, they have software development skills on their resume.
“We’re working with inmates who are going to be released within the next year or so because with the tech industry always changing, we want them to be able to have the freshest skills to be able to search for jobs,” Teltser said.
Classes are conducted online. While that presents challenges — it’s harder to point out where to fix a line of code when you can’t just point at a student’s screen — Teltser’s own experience as a DeltaV student helps. It was halfway through her own education at DeltaV that her class was forced to switch from in-person to virtual classes, due to the 2020 pandemic.
Another challenge is that internet use is heavily restricted in prison. Teltser said the enthusiasm of her students isn’t the least bit dampened, however.
“They are so engaged, and ask such great questions,” she said.
Learning to code could make a huge impact for inmates upon their release. According to DeltaV alumni surveys, the average salary for software developers that complete its full program is $60,399, and the average salary for help desk students is $34,320.
On July 1, she taught a free one-day Code 101 class in Cedar Rapids, and had two female students who said they’d tried to get into programming in the past, but actively stopped because of how inaccessible the field was — or was perceived to be — as a woman.
“Their experience doesn’t come as a surprise of course, but it definitely hit me in the feels to hear that being said twice in just one class,” Teltser said.
“It makes me so happy that they decided to give it a try again, and that they felt our program was a place they could see themselves.”