while(self++) { #7 } // Why I Teach at Hunter

For those of you who don’t know, I teach an undergraduate Computer Science course at Hunter College. Recently, people have been asking me about it. Specifically, why I decided to do it. It may be enlightening to explain why I teach in general, before I explain why I specifically teach at Hunter.

Weirdly enough, I teach because I feel that I’m not good enough. That sounds strange, but here’s my mentality: I may know something well, but I’m probably not good enough to build amazing things with that knowledge myself. Instead, I should share that knowledge with others. I can teach them what I know. I can be the guide for nascent learners on their own journeys to building great things. The imposter syndrome is strong in this one, I know, but it makes perfect sense to me.

I feel passionate about many of the things that I know and do. Especially Computer Science. I feel that many people do not experience just how amazing it is. They lose interest. Either they are taught without the passion that CS deserves or they never grapple with its big “Why?” questions. I understand that some people genuinely don’t care about “all that computer stuff.” To each their own. But an incomplete CS education hurts those who might be interested. Give me ten minutes of your time. I may not make you a programmer or Computer Scientist in that time, but I will genuinely endeavor to blow your mind. I know why I love it, and I want to get that across. It’s why I teach. CS consistently amazed me when I first learned it, and it continues to do so all the time. Let me share that amazement with you.

So why am I teaching specifically at Hunter? Basically, I care about Hunter students. As a Hunter graduate, I went through experiences that shaped my perspective on what could be better. I see two core flaws:

  1. Hunter’s CS department does not (currently) prepare students well enough for entering the tech industry.
  2. Hunter’s CS students have not (yet) established a strong enough tech culture.

When I was a student, I struggled quite a bit with applying what I was learning. Hunter is excellently geared towards teaching CS theory. It’s at the level of top schools across the country. But not everyone wants a Master’s or PhD. I wanted to be a software engineer in the field. So did many of my peers.

The administration didn’t provide many opportunities to jump off of and I didn’t find myself connected to Hunter’s student CS groups. I made a lot of mistakes on my journey into tech. I struggled to learn new things on my own. The virtue of hackathons revealed itself to me quite late. I failed at getting internships multiple times. Proper technical interview techniques and the realities of company recruiting cycles were all news to me. I had to build projects with no mentorship, find opportunities with little direction, and apply to companies with no support system. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Struggle is necessary for self growth. I fully believe that. But I also thoroughly believe that it doesn’t have to be that difficult. You can pay it forward and reduce the activation energy for everyone else. My goal with teaching is to convey the awesomeness of CS and to start forming a bridge into industry for my students. I mandate industry-utilized tools in my class. I host technical interview workshops. I ask the important why questions. I mentor anyone who asks for help. I want to do my part.

A special shoutout to Mike Zamansky for his contributions to Hunter. I’ve talked to him about all this quite a bit. The former Coordinator of CS at Stuyvesant High School, Mike recently became the Coordinator of CS Teacher Education at Hunter College. We both agree that providing the benefit of CS education to the greatest number of college students must be done through CUNY. I firmly believe that he’s taking critical steps towards making the Hunter CS community stronger and more prepared to enter the tech industry. Let’s all work together to make this a reality.

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