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Who Were Your Best Teachers? 240

sachachua asks: "I'm sure most people have a story about terrific teachers they have had at some point in their life. You know, the kind of teacher who gets you really excited about subjects like computer science or physics. I credit my fascination with Linux to my first year high school teacher, who let me play with being a sysadmin while trying to figure out how to set up a Linux BBS. Then there's one of my college professors, who was really approachable and let me ask all sorts of Java-related questions outside class - even gave me extra projects to work on. There are countless professors and teaching assistants who make learning computer science fun and exciting for students. Would Slashdot readers like to share a couple of great stories?"
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Who Were Your Best Teachers?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you define the 'best teachers' I've had by the amount I've learned from them, then the two best techers I've ever had I hated. As a matter of fact, everyone hated them, they were evil and nasty. (In class)

    The first was my AP Biology teacher in high school, whose tests were questions winnowed from all of the prior AP tests, just the questions that happened to be on the present subject matter. The curve in her class was 60% was an A, to fail you needed to get below 15%. The class was torture to live through, but I learned more about biology in that class than I learned in any three other high school classes. (And I took LOTS of AP classes.)

    The second teacher was in college, and he also wrote evil tests : true and false, if false explain why. Mutliple choice, select the answers that are true, don't select the ones that are false, if all are true select all of them, if none are true select none of them. The curves for his tests were take your score and add about 41. Again I learned an immense amount in the classes he taught and hated his guts. He would stalk students that were not paying attention and pounce nasty questions on them. But you learned...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have been fortunate in going to public schools all my life (ie private ones, where you pay). This means that my teachers have on the whole been dedicated and thoroughly inspiring to me. My first most amazing teacher was my old Latin teacher, who was so enthusiastic towards his subject, everyone loved it even though they had started with the apprehension that it was a dead, boring and difficult language. Unfortunately he had to retire because he had ME, but we all still loved latin because of the great start we had been given to it.

    My second teacher who was really inspiring was my English teacher. I had never really liked English until I had him. Whether I now love it because he liked my style and thought I was good at it, or because he was just a great teacher I don't know. I certainly remember striving away to get an A in every prep I did, desperately unhappy if I did not achieve it.

    Then was my piano teacher. I come from a highly musical family, with my father owning Howarths, the top oboe manufacturers in the UK. I'd always loved the piano, and always wanted to learn it, and finally I had an amazing teacher too, who has pushed me forward and inspired me to work hours each day. I went from Grade 3 to Grade 8 in three years. But she is a different kind of inspirational teacher. She will shout at me, tell me I'm crap, tell me I ruin my pieces by my weak fingers and lack of control, and completely demoralise me. Yet she does this because she knows I am musical, and she knows what I am capable of. She gets just as frustrated as I do when I don't do something well.

    So my favourite subjects have been music, latin, and english. However I am not doing Music for A level, nor Latin although I would very much wish to. For I am inspired by interest as well as a great teacher. I am studying Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry for A level and English Literature. I have never had an inspiration teacher in any of my science subjects, but I love them so much I have still continued to learn them. English I am doing partly due to my love of the language and of our literature, but also because my teacher has inspired me so much to study it. It breaks my heart not to do music for A level, and keep it just as learning the piano and violin. Perhaps then I should have studied music over English.

    Then of course comes computers. My teacher? Myself.

    So what does comprise a good teacher? Someone who is inspirational, and opens your eyes to their subject? No, it is someone who opens your eyes to the very concept of learning, beyond that of their own subject. It is someone who inspires you to go far in whatever you do. My latin teacher told me once "Aut Caesar, aut nihil". (Either Ceasar, or nothing, implying you go for everything, or nothing). And that is something I've always kept to, and always will. A good teacher is someone who inspires you to become compassionate about something wider than their own subject. It can't be limited just to learning about geography, it has to be learning itself.

    A passion for learning about a subject comes from within you, and teachers can only show you what is already there inside of you. For me, I have a great compassion to learn about everything I possibly can. I love the concepts of quantum physics, I love the idea of computers just going down to 1s and 0s, I love music just being different sound frequencies. A teacher can only show you what is already inside you. And if it is truly there, you will follow your insticts despite terrible teachers, as I have in my sciences and maths. I am inspired by a willingness to learn I created myself. Yes great teachers along the way have helped me want to learn, perhaps have shown me a wider spectrum than their individual subject. But ultimately a teacher doesn't matter. If you are destined to follow a particular career, you will get there through sheer determination regardless of the quality of your teachers.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The point is not that you should, but that you can...ie., in real life you're not likely to optimize your instruction count that much. But you are going to have to solve optimization problems with clever algorithms. The thought process is the same.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Best teacher I've had so far is my Middle School T.A.G. Instructor. She's one of the few teachers I've had who actually has said that she doesn't know everything, but, she can point us to someone or some resource that can teach us more about whatever it is we're researching, or that we have an interest in. She also treated us like actual people instead of "students". For that, I'm eternally grateful. She's also vocalized her disgust for the man I'm about to describe below.

    Now, on the bad side, there's the man who leads up our School's technology divison, which we all lovingly refer to as "Mr. Dick". This is the guy that told one of my friends that Linux was based on Windows NT. Our school is set up so that all a student can do on the network is browse the internet. That's IT. So, the HS T.A.G. program decided to put down some of our funds from a grant we had gotten to buy a Computer that we could actually do things that we were interested in. (Programming, Video Editing, Music Creation, etc.) We wanted to do all the setup ourselfs, so that it wouldn't be set up like the other "drone" computers in the school, so that we could actually use it for what it was intended for. We come into class the next day, and, lo and behold, he's sitting there with some guy from R&D (A company which is contracted by the school for tech work...they pretty much do his job for him) he's setting it up just like all the other computers. So, we jump the BIOS, format and do a dual boot w/ Linux and Windows 2000. He takes it, reformats. We do the same. He does the same. And so on. This cycle is still going to this day.

    Another wonderful tale of Dicky's wonderous deeds is when some stupid script kiddie in our school had a disk w/ a keystroke recorder, and left it in the library. The librarian asked him if it was his, and he said it was. So, he got pulled down to Dickmeister's office, and he tried to interrogate him w/ the whole "I can have you arrested for this!" thing. He lied and said he got it from some other kid (Who I don't really like in the first place) who helped us set up some stuff on the T.A.G. Computer. So, Mr. Dick uses this as an excuse to try to take said computer out of the T.A.G. room because it might be "evidence". That's how he found out that we formatted, etc. So, he threatened this kid w/ Arrest n' whatknot, and he made up all kinds of laws he could get him on....until he got a lawyer. He stopped bothering him after that. It was still 2 more months after that before we got the computer back. They also tried to tell us that the grant we got specifically for the T.A.G. program were not T.A.G. funds, and the principal said that "We put all the grant money the school gets into a pot, and then we divide it up to the different programs at the school."

    I hate my school.

    I'll stop ranting for today. I've got a couple dozen more stories that I could tell, but, I'm getting all pissed off again from remembering this.

    ~~plungerhead [mailto]

  • I think that's a valid gripe; unfortunately, it seems that moderators never read anything below +2 these days... *hint* *hint*

    I don't understand why they don't make sure that teachers can teach before they let them loose on a real class. I've got a teacher right now who told us all that he's taking speech therapy classes right now--and he is impossible to understand. Fortunately, this is an online course, but forget about going to the Q&A sessions...
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • The only unfortunate thing is that when I took her class, she was teaching Pascal, which has fallen by the wayside. Sure could use a teacher like her in my efforts to learn C++ and Java.

    Why is this unfortunate? All the underlying principles you've been tought still hold true for other languages, such as C or Java. Sure, you'll need to learn a new language, but you should be able to get very comfortable with a new language in a couple of weeks. Personally I think Pascal is a great language for teaching programming principles. Languages such as C or Java (not to mention C++) have too much overhead for people new to programming; just look at the number of lines a minimalistic 'Hello World' program needs...

  • Best teacher -- Larry Smith, macroeconomics, the University of Waterloo, Canada. Without comparason, the most inspiring, intellegent and witty teacher I've had. Economics is *not* a dismal science.
  • Since I am going to be graduating in May and going into teaching (high school math):

    1) My sophomore/junior year math teacher for Trig/Pre-Cal/Calculus. I went to a Xavierian (Catholic) high school and Brother John was... well, a brother. Super nice. He got to school about an hour and a half before school and stayed about two hours afterwards just to be there for questions. He expected everyone to be paying attention at all times, and seemed to know the answer to every question you could imagine.

    2) My Calc II TA my freshman year in college. Man, that guy was weird. He mostly just goofed off and did really strange things. One time he stopped in the middle of a discussion and punched the wall. One time he explained to us that whenever he asked "Well, what do *you* think we should do here?" actually meant "I do not have a clue what to do here and I am hoping you have some idea." He also never complained when I never turned in homework. Never, even though homework was 20% of our grade. He realized that I knew my stuff and that was what was important.

    3) My Linear Algebra/Number Systems/Moder Algebra prof. I am not sure what was worse - the fact that you could not read a single thing he wrote on the board, or the fact that he just seemed to never be explaining things very well. Three semesters with him, though, and I caught on to his style. Everyone in the classes had to work thier asses off to figure out what he was talking about (and writing on the board), but that extra work helped me, at least, figure it out. He also gave me A's despite the fact that I never did homework.

    4) My stats/probability prof. He only gave two homework problems a week, and gave ten "suggested problems." No ten-page problem sets here. Most test problems were very similar to the "suggested problems", though.

    Homework always was a killer for me. I never really liked doing it. I always appreciated when a prof could see that, despite me not doing homework, I actually knew the stuff. I realized that convincing them of that meant showing up to every class and making sure to participate in class (a sure way to show profs that you know what you are talking about).
  • Hands down, the most influential teacher I had with regard to computers was my sixth grade computer teacher, Steve Ray.

    He taught middle school computer classes in the mid to late 80s. The school had a lab full of Apple IIe computers. In a later class they obtained an Apple IIgs which was the desire of many a student.

    A primary goal of the class was to teach the students how to type. There was an interactive Apple program that took the student through a series of lessons and then allowed him to practice until he became proficient with that set of keys. Mr. Ray immediately recognized my potential when I consistantly topped the list of typing speed.

    The challenge of becoming the fastest typist was second only to beating the typing games. Before I knew it, I was typing 40wpm. My parents had already recognized that I possessed a natural musical ability and some piano lessons may have paved the way for my typing success.

    While my typing abilities gained his attention, it was the algorithms I wrote in LOGO that convinced him I had "the knack". I remember sitting in other classes writing LOGO routines on paper and anxiously waiting for computer class or visiting the computer lab at lunch and after school to try out my creations.

    At some point, he moved me to the AppleIIgs which was connected to a large TV monitor for demonstration purposes. During class, I would type in what he was teaching the rest of the class. He loaned me an IBM compatible version of LOGO so I could install it on my XT at home (which never did quite work as well as the apple version).

    The ultimate gift from this teacher, beyond his innate ability to challenge me and keep me interested while other students struggled with the primary assignment, was a recommendation to NCR that I be given a scholarship to a summer computer camp. This act singlehandedly paved the way for my thirst for knowledge and understanding.

    I traveled to the NCR Headquarters in Dayton, Ohio every day for several weeks in the summer of 1988 where I learned BASIC, core principles of logic, and how to approach problems to be solved programmatically. We were given tours of fault tolerant computer centers that had swipe cards, concrete walls that could withstand natural and manmade disasters, and computing resources that boggled the mind at that time. A general comradarie flourished among me and the other young people there as we discovered the magic of computers.

    My future was given a push in the right direction. Where I am now, not only as a respected programmer and systems/network administrator, but life as a whole, is a direct result of the mind expanding, think out of the box mentoring I received at this camp and in Mr. Ray's classes. I feel that as I began to question how things worked and comprehend what, at first glance, seemed intractable my thought processes and perceptions about everyday life changed as well.

    Many teachers are disillusioned and downright apathetic. I've had my share of teachers who teach out of the book and offer nothing to guide and gently push a student who shows promise. Mr. Ray truly cared not only about his student's understanding of the core lessons of the class but also made extra efforts to provide encouragement to those who quickly grasped the basic concepts and sought to explore more. While I'm sure his love for computers was deep, his actions, and my immediate recognitition of his presence in my development, suggest that he was an overall top-notch and generally nice guy.

    Mr. Ray was an Air Force reservist and was called back to active duty at the end of my 8th grade year. I believe he went to an Air Force base in Colorado Springs. My attempts to locate him about a year ago failed. While I have been unable to thank him personally, maybe some day he will stumble upon this message and have a sense of satisfaction of the role he played in my life.

    Thank you, Mr. Ray. You inspired me and surely countless others.
  • Time: Sophomore year in Hamden High School, 1974. Place: A prefab building outside the school, somewhere in darkest Connecticut...

    Me [14 years old, short, lots of hair, granny dress, enormous breasts, hyperventilating]: "I um, understand you've got a computer here? Like from the DoD? Can I see it?"

    He [short sleeved dress shirt, real pocket protector, slide rule case, half specs]: "Sure. Want to try it out?"

    Me: "Wow!"

    He: "Sign the log, and here's a book..."

    Me: "Gee, a TeleTYpe and everything! And a WATER COOLER! Wait until I tell Mom...I look like that groovy chick in Cosmopolitan!"

    [Next day...]

    Me: "I wonder what this does?"


    20 GOTO 10






    Me: EEK! That...that computer! It's got a mind of its own! It's not responding to SCR or NEW or even t\n! What do I do now??




    [I drink a conical cup of water, try to remember some SF...]

    Me: I know!!! It's in Isaac Asimov! I'll turn it off!!

    [I switch off the TTY, and walk casually over to Dr. Berger, sitting under a chalk board with allocation of core memory...]

    Me: I'd like to report a malfunction...

    Hacker chorus in background: Berger!! You gave her the wrong book again!!

    He: Um, I forgot to tell you, break is ^C. And by the way, you passed the test....

    THE END.

  • Apparently you're a student of nothing; even the most small-minded psych students I knew at university wouldn't disagree with "it's BOTH nature AND nurture". Few *learned* individuals disagree with this, and you've said nothing to indicate that you're anything but unlearned.

    For myself, my best teachers were my grade 9 science teacher, my grade 10 history teacher, and one of my CS profs at UNB. (Mr. Rose at CCJHS in Truro, NS; Mr Brown at CEC in Truro, NS; and Dr. Jane Fritz at UNB Fredericton.) From Mr. Rose I learned a method of teaching of which I highly approve - make the students give you their answers. From Mr. Brown I learned that history, and by extension any subject in school, can be fun. And from Dr. Fritz I learned that students can be people too. (You'd have to have been a student of hers, or somebody with a similar style, to really understand, and nobody will read my explanation anyway.)

  • I had Bill Watson for 1 quarter in 1972 at University of Washington. Which got me hooked for life to Differential Geomery, and Mr. Hulot's Holiday for life.

    You can read about this wonderful teacher at:

  • Of course it would help if I could spell Differential Geometry right ( or at least the same twice in a row....)


  • While not a school teacher, this guy started a small computer club when I was about 14. Got a bunch of kids together, and started talking about computers and Ham Radio. Pretty decent about it as well. Spent a lot of time and bought lots of Pepsi for us as well :) The world needs more people like this, and I probably will do the same when the kids get a little older, and the time is there.

    We started by doing simple programs in Basic on the Apple ][ machines. This led to games, and the need for speed. At that time it meant assembly language. So we learned that on the 6502. Built little routines that we could call from the basic.

    The assembly language stuff was probably some of the most important learning that I have ever done. Granted today there is little use for it, but having written full programs in it made for an understanding of things in a way that would have not been possible given just higher language tools.

    At the time I owned an Atari 800 machine. Cool graphics chips. He basically taught me assembler the hard way. We wrote all the tools needed in the Basic language at the time, then sped them up with code generated from those same tools. The 6502 is fast, but very limited in its capability. I remember him teaching me what self modifying code was, and how wierd of a concept that was, but on that chip, it made the difference between night and day. Later on I got a macro assembler with intergrated debugger (Mac 65 --I still have it!) and was in heaven.

    He owned a couple of TRS 80 color computers. They had probably the worst graphics around (some motorola thing), but they also had a 6809 CPU. After cutting my teeth on a 6502, the 6809 was awesome. Very nice instruction set, and probably as powerful as you can get for an 8 bitter. More important was at the time I was maybe 16 years old, and I could tell you which CPU's sucked, and why I thought they did. (Die Z80 Die!) The number of kids in my school that could do that was maybe 5. I lived also in a small town where you worked with what you could find.

    On that chip we wrote code that was reentrant, and relocatable. Making code readable, small, and fast at the same time was an art that I am very glad to have learned to appreciate. Also ran Os/9 multi user with a few terminals setup on the serial ports.

    Using the Atari with its very nice bi-directional game ports (6520 I think) we also did some input output control stuff. One project was to send and receive morse code using the computer as a teletype. This ended up working, and I was able to converse with someone else using the setup, and they had no idea.

    All this nice stuff before 1986! and on consumer hardware.

    Kind of interesting these days when the memory required to hold a full color icon on the display can require more memory in user space than those systems did, yet much of the knowledge still applies.

    We also went and got our Ham Radio License. I have since let mine lapse. (should not have though) This involved early radio ethics, basic AC DC theory, and antennas. Mix this with the computers, and technology becomes a toy, and and an enabler. Want to fix something? Start reading. How about make something new? Used all of this stuff to get one of my first jobs, and also repair and enjoy some great stereo equipment that I would not have otherwise been able to afford.

    Today I look also at computing with an eye toward what should be possible. I spent about 10 years working with PC hardware, and M$ OSes and was kind of missing something. Now I run SGI IRIX, and Linux, and it's back! Computing environments that are mallable, and yet still have some structure that matters, and that you can count on.

    All I have to say to this guy is Thank You! Those early days of bit-mapped graphics, look up tables, and CPU level math are not forgotten. Wonder if he reads SlashDot?

    End Nostalga mode...

  • My senior year in high school there was a new computer lab being installed and they needed student assistants to help the other kids with Word and Excel and the like. They also wanted to get the lab connected to the Internet. So I signed up.

    When I got there they had about 15 PCs and a phone line. The hubs and the server were in the mail and the network cards were in a box in the corner. They also purchased 5 Mac's that were delivered later.

    Once the server was delivered I basically setup the lab. They wanted NT, so I installed NT server and set it all up. In the process I totally learned how to do a lot of things with profiles and policies that I never would have known about. We also used services on the NT machine to create a shared drive that the Macs and the PC's could both see to help move file between them. I even setup the Proxy server at first so that 5 of those PC's could share the one modem. Before I left they had ISDN installed and all the computers were then online. We even wired the library, a couple other computer labs, and a few of the other rooms in the building. It was the best lab in the entire school district.

    I never would have been able to do it without the lab supervisor. He gave me a lot of room to do what I wanted and usually I was able to fix most of the problems on my own. We used to discuss problems that we had in the lab with studets that tried to "hack" the 98 machines and generally we solved most of the problems or found solutions online.

    I still to this day go to lunch with him whenever I'm in town and I occasionally help him with any problems he may be having with the lab. I guess they still talk about the "guy that installed the first NT network in the district."

    I can also say that after working in the lab I can totally see why teaching is so difficult. The students aren't the problem either, its the administration and all the hoops that constantly have to be jumped through to get anything done.

  • I don't know if this is a "best" teacher or a "least bad," but seeing as every other comp sci teacher I've ever had has been an arrogant asshole, my favorite was the Russian who didn't speak a word of English. Nor did he know C++, the language on which the class was designed. Aah, gotta love public high schools. :)
  • You obviously don't live in the South. :) Teaching positions south of the Mason-Dixon line are desparate; I know for a fact Houston ISD hires teachers who don't even speak English, because they're so hard up. As for the substitutes, (I'm seriously not making this up,) I've had: a hobo (though he preferred to be called a traveler), a Rwandan refugee, a man who reeked of marijuana and a woman who was later convicted of killing her mother. This is the state of education pretty much anywhere in the South.
  • The best teacher I had was mr. Castelli - english teacher. He was a hippy looking guy, long hair, multiple bracelets, etc. He was notorious for using the F word - it wasn't uncommon for him to use it 4-5 times during the lesson. I know this sounds pretty bad, but it worked - he used it as if he was talking to a friend and describing a book he really loved, and using strong words because he was overwhelmed with awe. He was also a huge fan of Oprah - he said that if he got to Oprah show, he'd stand on his knees (he immediately demonstrated it) and made a tirade about how great she is. I should watch her sometime.. He was also very articulate and had a very decent vocabulary (expletives notwithstanding). I think he later got transferred for the f-word, or maybe fired - and I really think that it wasn't fair because perhaps the only way to be taken serious by students there (mostly black in one of the worse neighborhoods of brooklyn) was to use their language. I'm really quite sorry I never tried hard there
    cause of the general fucked up school attitude of 'slacking along' that I conformed to, but he made an influence on me still. Cool guy, and a great teacher! There was *never* any droning in his class - at worst you were in for quite a show, and at best you were a part of it..
  • I've had several teachers that I would rate as excellent, but the one that really stands out would be Eugene Lawler. He taught (among other things) CS 170 which was the basic undergraduate CS Theory class at Berkeley. Turing machines, computabilty, NP Completeness, etc.

    Professor Lawler was one of the most approachable professors I ever met. One of my favorite memories from his class was that each week he would appoint one student "The Dummy." It was the job of "The Dummy" to ask at least three stupid questions per class session. The thought was that when one person asked a stupid question other students would be encouraged to ask questions that they had, but which they thought were "too stupid" to ask.

    As we were going through the class and I'm doing the reading and checking the bibliography I see that it was Professor Lawler along with Richard Karp that had originally proven quite a lot of the basic theorems presented in the course of the class. I remember being amazed that this fun, approachable, interesting man was at least partially responsible for real groundbreaking research.

    I learned a year or so ago that Professor Lawler had, some years since, died of cancer. It makes me sad to think that his light has gone out in this world.
  • My best teacher was a high-school history teacher. He was hard core and didn't take crap from anyone, but he made history *fun*.

    He was an ex-Ranger and everything else (we were sure he was also DB Cooper).

    If you asked a stupid question, he told you it was stupid -- a trait missed, I think, today.

    Unfortunatly he, like many of my high school teachers, simply gave up. They were old and even the best teachers finally burn out. I think every generation finally gives up on "the kids today" which is too bad.

    My $.02
  • My HS band teacher was an arrogant, pompus bastard, but he motivated our music program to perfection. While our sports teams faultered and floundered, our bands (Wind Ensemble, Marching/Concert/Stage Bands) were winning awards and praise from the community and school.

    Some of us were motivated out of fear, but we knew that just making him proud and happy was worth all of the trouble. Everybody that had him as a conductor owes him something.

    Even though my involvement in music since HS is much less, I still strive for perfection and excellence in much that I do. He always asked 110% of us and he got it.

    One phrase from him sums up his philosophy:
    "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."

  • ...enough to have had many great teachers during my academic career.

    Bob Cooke, at secondary school, for recognising at entrance that I could be good at Maths if given appropriate challenges. Up to that point, I was failing badly because the maths work wasn't challenging enough; I'd learn how to do something early enough, but couldn't be bothered with all the endless repetitive practice exercises when I was getting them 100% right. Thanks to Mr Cooke, he placed my in the top stream and I ended up taking maths a year early. Incidentally, he picked up his maths degree from an Open University (UK TV-based distance learning) course, or so I heard.

    Also at secondary school were Mr Moore, teaching Physics and Chemistry and Brendan McLoughlan teaching English Lit. Both had such enthusiasm for their subject that you couldn't help but work hard. I was doing OK at the sciences, but Mr's Moore's encouragement helped greatly. Particular praise goes to Mr McLoughlan though, as English Lit was yet another course I was failing badly. Thanks to his efforts, I can't help looking for deeper meanings in any book, film or song I experience even today!

    College was a bit dry, but university had a number of stars; Dr Vic Callaghan, Dave Lyons, Mike Sanderson all stand out. Mr Lyons stands out for introducing me to the concepts of "Keep It Simple, Stupid" and "Never use a computer when a coathanger will do". He also made me aware of the need to consider usability by people with disabilities when designing interfaces, something I'd never considered previously. Mike Sanderson's Abstract Data Types & Compiler Construction course was a real trial-by-fire. You either flunked it badly or came out a much better, cleaner programmer than before.

    Thanks to all these teachers (and the ones I haven't mentioned!) for helping me to make it to where I am today.

  • Ken Shrum and Madam Theisen were the two best teachers I've had in my educational experience.

    Madam Theisen was my French teacher when I was in Jr. High school. Most foreign language teachers did the conventional thing: They taught the grammar, taught vocabulary, had us do assignments to drill the vocabulary, important things to learn, but I got bored with the drills and lectures and didn't get very much out of those classes. Madam Theisen was about the craziest woman I've ever met in school (the perfect thing for a French class :) ) She would wear outrageous outfits, including a big chicken hat. She had us sing songs, she brought in food and had us recite the names of food and utensils as we ate, she taught us French nursery rhymes. The class was incredibly silly, but we learned French well. During the summer, she also organized and chaperoned trips to France, which both I and my sister went on. <ramble> We saw Paris, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Pompidou Center (also known as the Inside Out building). I spent a week or so living with a French family. I visited the D-Day beaches at Normandy. I visited the Cote D'Azure, I saw the Bastille Day celebrations, and had a blast!</ramble> She taught us not only French, but a deep appreciation of other cultures which I carry to this day.

    My other truly great teacher was Ken Shrum, who taught my Object Oriented Design class last fall at Colorado State University. He was one of those teachers who bucked against the normal way of doing things at CSU. The first thing he did in his class, before we got to object oriented design itself, was teach us how to be better programmers in what he called his "Boot Camp," which covered good programming style, and threw in some Extreme Programming concepts including unit testing, test-first programming and pair-programming. He was concerned about some of the things that were left untaught in the CS Dept., and that put him at odds with the rest of the department and the friction forced him to leave. Nevertheless, it is clear that Ken cared a great deal about his students and went out of his way to help them.

    To both of you, thanks for everything, you don't know the difference you've made in people's lives.

  • I'm now a computer science teacher myself at a high school near Austin, TX. Here's the story of the teacher that influenced me to become a teacher.

    As a freshman at the University of Texas, I had the pleasure to learn under Susan Loepp as my assistant instructor for the Emerging Scholars version of calculus discussion section. She was a graduate student in mathematics and was responsible for filling the gaps between calculus lectures and exams for two semesters. I have had no better teacher.

    As a graduate student, Susan was fairly young, probably still in her mid-twenties. Accordingly, she had an excitement for learning and for her field that is rare in mathematics. When introducing a new topic, showing some unusual or especially interesting application for a concept we had learned, or when some student was on the brink of understanding, she often grew visibly excited and would hop up from her perch on top of her desk and fly around the room or pause by the chalk board to make her words concrete. Her passion was contagious; I often found myself smiling at or surprised by the elegance of some new theorem.

    Not content to merely provide us with the information we needed to complete homeworks or pass tests, Susan also tried to show us the "Why?" of what we were learning. Rather than using simple repetition or memorization (although these methods were used), Susan drew on her deeper knowledge of mathematics to show us the principles that made our techniques work. For example, instead of just stating that integration of a function gives the area under a curve, she used numerous diagrams and example problems to show why it does so. Such minilectures in number theory and higher math gave us a taste of the joy in truly knowing a subject.

    Susan was tireless. Although as a graduate student she no doubt had plenty of work to be done, and though our class met three days a week for two hours each day, she was always in class. And not just present; she had a new worksheet of problems for us every day, with examples, explanations, and several exercises of increasing complexity based on the previous day's lecture. She was always prepared for the day's topic, and though flexible, never had to "fly by the seat of her pants", as she was ready for the questions we would ask and anticipated what we would find counter-intuitive. All this she handled almost casually, yet with characteristic intensity, as if she had no other concerns.

    Even though she knew more mathematics then than I will probably ever learn, Susan seemed to consider us not students as much as co-laborers. That is, one got the impression that she was just one of us, that she did not consider herself better because she had learned more. She was very down-to-earth, and understood that school often took a back seat to real life. Before exams, there were always pizza and pepperoni rolls at study sessions. She held a superbowl party at her apartment to which we were all invited. Similarly, she came to an end-of-the-year party that another student held. She knew our names, our phone numbers and more, and made sure we knew the same about each other. We were not merely her students but her friends.

    Finally, Susan tried to show that there is no better way to learn than to teach. Each student had to do a project showing the solution to some interesting problem. It was presented before the class and we had to defend ourselves and present the material in a way that was understood by others. In addition, before every exam, we were responsible for making up study sheets, which had to be completed early and in sufficient detail so that someone who had never been exposed to the topic in question could learn it and further understand. Predictably, whoever had made the study sheet for a particular type of problem would perform flawlessly on them on the exam. She showed us that the axiom "those who can, do; those who cannot, teach" could not be farther from the truth.

    Susan showed me by example what a great teacher should be. She sparked my interest in teaching by allowing me to get a taste of it for myself, by allowing me to see that I can have a similar passion for my field. She taught me calculus better than my professor because she told me the "Why?", and convinced me that it was important to know, that it made a difference. Susan made me want to be a teacher, and I hope that I am for my students what she was, and is, to me.

  • The one teacher that had the most influance on me was my father. He taught high school math and physics as well as being the football and track (and occational basketball and wrestling) coach. Not only did I have him through out my four years of high school as a teacher, he was my coach. And if you think I might have gotten a bit of a free ride in ether schoolastics or athletics because of it think again. He was incredible fair; I had to work just a little harder than anyone else but I passed or failed/played or not according to my abilities. After I graduated (and subsequently dropped out of collage) I had the privilage of coaching with him for a few years as his assistent.

    I didn't only learn the subjects and sports from him, though. I learned how to teach, how to modivate someone to help them achieve their goals. I learned that you can be in a position of authority without having to be a dictator or tyrant. That having and keeping a good sense of humor can help you through hard times. I learned that nothing is more important than family. That being a man does not mean you can't feel and show those feelings. I also learned that knowledge is a gift that should be shared. Learn everything you can about anything and pass it on to someone. There are many more things he taught me. How I live and who I am is, in a large part, due to him.

    Last Feb. 2nd, he passed away after five years of illness. It's hard seeing the man who was your strength being eaten away in front of you. But even in this he taught me something. No matter what happens or how bad it gets, nothing can defeat your spirit. Never give up.


  • O'Reilly's always been a great teacher.

    A mind is a terrible thing to taste.

  • ... believe it or not, was the best teacher I've had for any subject.

    I was taking night classes at a tech school. By day he was the DP manager (what would be a CIO these days) for US Pipe in Chattanooga, TN. Why he chose to teach night classes I don't know... maybe just for the love of teaching. Whatever the reason was, he was damn good at it.

    He told one story that still makes me laugh. This was 1979, when most of the smaller shops were just weaning themselves from the old punch cards. US Pipe was made the leap, and he was trying to find someone who wanted his old card punch. Not only would no one buy it, but the only people who had any interest wanted to be paid for carting it away. So he got some of his workers to help him load it in the back of his truck, and he used it to anchor his floating dock at his lake house.

  • Number one for me has to be Don Pederson, 6th-7th grade English/reading from Inglewood, CA. I had him for half a day during 6th and for English/reading in 7th.

    What does this have to do with Slashdot? Aside from glib comments that many CS/CE graduates can barely spell, this was my first experience with complex structures and organization.

    Bear in mind that this is for 11-12 year-olds:

    - Poetry examination including the standard fare of onomatopoeia, alliteration and rhyme. Branches out to include the major styles of meter: dactyl, anapest, iambic and trochee. Examples drawn from Shakespeare, Edger Allen Poe (his favorite), Frost, etc.

    - Works of literature including _Lord_of_the_Flies_, _The_Crucible_, _The_Martian_Chronicles_, most of the works of Edger Allen Poe (I told you he liked the guy) to name a few.

    - English grammar. Yes, that's right, there were some renegade teachers who defied the decree from on high that teachers should not teach grammar. I have a theory that teaching grammar didn't make a significant effect on test scores because most teachers don't know the rules of grammar themselves. Subject-verb-direct object? P'shaw! That was a quick primer on the first day in sixth grade. I'm talking about infinitives, participles, prepositions/prepositional phrases, adverbiable clauses, noun clauses, independant clauses, relative clauses, gerands, etc.

    - One of our working textbooks was Strunk & White's _Elements_of_Style_.

    Its funny. I want to be a teacher but can't without a degree and credential. :(
    Don't let this be relection of this teacher. I rarely did homework -- a source of great consternation to my parents and teachers to be sure.

    Back to the subject, I want to be a teacher, but it was not Don Pederson that put that (masochistic?) desire into me. It was the teacher I had in the eigth grade who expected subject-verb-direct object from her students and not much more. I was disgusted! I knew that there was so much more that I had learned in the last two years. There is nothing, in my opinion, that an eleven-year-old can learn that a thirteen-year-old cannot.

    I still have my class notes to this day. After him, english classes were just a few more books and writing practice. I had to re-read _Lord_of_the_Flies_ and _The_Martian_Chronicles_ again in high school. Not the worst thing in the world but isn't education supposed to be exposure to a wide variety of material so as to teach a literary roadmap? Just my humble opinion I guess.

    Again, what does this have to do with Slashdot? My knowledge of grammar and sentence structure helped my ability with foreign languages (i18n & l10n). I illustrated to me the value of clear and concise writing even in technical documentation for my code. I'm not so willing to skimp on comments. The poetry training specifically helped in translating the abstract into a logical structure. Yes! Poetry taught me how to program!

    Much props to you Mr. P.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mr Barrett was an Englishman who taught at a private Quaker school on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia. Though his armpits were perennially damp, he maintained the illusion that his knowledge was bottomless. He was a good communicator, and he held interest for his students, but perhaps a teacher should be solely judged on his/her ability to motivate a student.

    I claim to be a genius no more than a fool; how often the two seem correlated. It was an AP class (a college credit should we pass the AP test) and computer classes always interested, but never challenged, me. As I know from my own teaching, the toughest challenge to manage in the classroom is how to keep the slow learners with the program without boring those that excel. That tightrope is managed by many factors including people skills, subject material, class size, sweat; I think you will agree that Mr. Barrett did it in more ways than one.

    Particularly I recall a programming assignment where we were to solve quadratic equations by plug in in the numbers and doing the math. Quadratic equations, the intrepid reader will recall, have the form of aX(squared) + bX + c = 0. In ancient times it was recognized that such an equation can be solved with the quadratic equation where X = -b + or - the square root of (b squared - 4ac) all over 2a. I note that it was quite fortunate for Einstein that e is not equal to mc cubed!

    Computers can solve such equations easily, and you can find such programs on the web. Assuming the answer is not irrational (negative numbers have no square roots) the answers (there are two due to the plus or minus) are output as useless decimals, not the simplified equations that we learned to calculate in Algebra class.

    I decided that my program would solve it the way we did it in Algebra class.

    Suffice it to say that I ate and slept little that week. There was a quite tricky bit of math that I figured out that made it all look easy, and the program's output was six frames showing the equation's simplification and solution. I handed in the assignment on Friday without a word and eagerly awaited Monday. Before class on Monday, I asked him his opinion, and he, naturally enough, said he'd like to speak with me after class. After class, naturally enough, he asked me if I could explain, on the board, that tricky bit of math that made it all look simple. I made a stab at it, and missed. I tried again, not quite. Mr. Barrett started looking at me, over his glasses, and he was not the only one sweating. I got it, I showed him, it all added up, but I don't know what expression I should have worn on my face to convince him that I wrote that program.

    A big part of motivation is making the student feel that they are making progress, and that their time is not wasted. My integrity was challenged that day, and though I knew I was integral, I recall few greater insults. Nor do I remember greater compliments - the program was so good, there was no way I could have written it. I credit Mr. Barrett not for his judgment of character, but for his judgment of programs, and for motivating me beyond my means.

    Mark Johnson. mark@nospam.inforaction.com

  • by Anonymous Coward
    My drama teacher in Highschool was, by far, the best teacher I've ever had. We all refered to her as "mom" because, that's essentially what she was to us. She respected us as equals, and belived in every single one of us. To this very day, I'm amazed at some of the productions we managed to do there, and did well. I'll always miss her. Unfortunatly, we lost her this last november to Cancer. Mom Adams, We all miss you.
  • The only "great" teacher I had in a computer science course was my Graphics instructor, Dennis M. This was a guy who wasn't supposed to be a professor at the university because he'd gotten his doctorate there (it was against university policy to hire its own), but because he brought in $2M in grant money each year, they broke the rules for him. But computer graphics really isn't like anything else in the computer biz -- it's almost entirely applied analytic geometry, i.e., it's pretty much a math class. He made it understandable when the graphics instructor I'd had the previous semester hadn't had a clue how to teach the material (I dropped the previous instructor's class 2 weeks in because it was obvious I wasn't going to learn anything from that instructor -- the university charged the same for signing up for 18 hours as for signing up for 12, so I usually over-subscribed and dropped the lamer teachers' courses as soon as it became obvious).

    My first-year computer science TA was pretty good too. He immediately saw that I was wasting my time with the little lamer programs in that required class, and set me up with something more challenging.

    In high school, I can't think of many good instructors that I had. They were mostly dedicated and sincere enough, but when there's 35 kids in the class, there's limits to what you can do. Probably the best was my freshman English and sophomore Ethics instructor (same guy). This was at a Catholic school and he'd been at a Jesuit seminary for a while before deciding that wasn't what he wanted to do with his life, then he'd spent time working as a counsellor at drug treatment programs, then he decided to teach. It still amazes me that they let him teach what he taught -- for example, in one unit, talking about the ethics of having sex, including frank talk about masturbation, birth control and sexually transmitted disease, at a CATHOLIC SCHOOL? He was constantly challenging kids to think, and was a prime rebuttal to the theory that a religious viewpoint upon life was incompatible with an intellectual life. While I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I must admit that experiencing Jesuit thought first-hand made me respect the Catholic church a lot more than some of those blatantly anti-intellectual religions out there (see the footer on my home page for what I think of the Christian Coalition and its ilk :-).

    Oh, regarding that "timeless wisdom etched in stone" bit -- probably the best thing this guy taught was that much of what's tossed out as "timeless wisdom etched in stone" is no more etched in stone than anything else. I guess this was under the philosophy of "toss out a morsel of timeless wisdom and you've taught a man a morsel, but teach a man to think, and you've put him on the road to wisdom".


  • Funilly enough, about the same thing happened to me... I used to be a natural (now with all the crap [rsinc.com] I must use, I can hardly program in C anymore). I was programming in assembly when I was 13 because basic was getting too slow for the kind of programming I was doing, and also, because I had very supportive parents who bought me DAMS, the best Amstrad CPC assembler ever.

    Anyway, I got into this industrial computing course, and we was doing assembly on some 68K boards. I was bored throughout the whole thing which was really pissing off the guy I was working with :-)

    Anyway, comes the exam (2 hours) and off I go, programming in assembly as if it was basic and getting a working version of the program in about 1/2 hour! (some weird shit, interfacing the 68K with some IO ports and timers) 15 minutes later and the program was looking a lot less messy than the original version. Around this time comes the teacher to check on me, checks the program, sees that it works, and asks me for my flowchart...

    So I tell the teacher that I haven't quite finished my program, that surely there are things to optimize, so I'll draw the freakin flowchart when I'm done with the programming.
    Not quite the question order he had in mind (was I supposed to draw the flowchart thingy BEFORE coding??? me??? :), so I got marked down... eventhough I knew my shit like nobody else.

    After getting my result and talking to the guy I learned a valuable lesson: I gave him the impression that I could have done the thing my eyes closed and ended-up making some minor mistakes (can't remember what it was, but it was some silly 68K specific shit, or something... took him quite some time to find something to mark me down on, though!) so he hurt me plenty for that (like, that'll teach you being so arrogant :-)

    What I'd say is that a mark is just a freakin mark, nothing else... is it going to affect your carrer if you're only the second best in your field? (especially if being the best means so much more work). Is a mark that important that you can't take a joke? Was you going to fill A Complaint because you was marked down? come-on, man, cheer-up! ;-)


  • My favorite teacher ever was a calculus teacher in HS who ran the computer lab. There were only two catches here.

    • I wasn't in calculus
    • I didn't have any classes in the computer lab
    I was an art major, our school was specialized. See, the problem is that none of the teachers charged with educating me actually were any good at it.

    So, I'd cut the classes and instead hang out in the computer lab, which the calc teacher running it wouldn't really care about.

    The environment in the computer lab was amazing. All of the dorks (me included) hung out there and fucked off all day. It was full of musical instruments and computers and math. The calc teacher loved talking to students. He had an eccentric personality that was very hard to get used to, but you came to love the guy once you got to know him (about a year's time).

    He'd let us all cut class if we really wanted to, and he'd even tolerate us sitting in on his regular classes that he had in there. We were allowed to play networked doom on the LAN (or any other game) and could freely use the internet (no censorware). My grand plan was to get a Linux box in there so the entire LAN could use the internet, rather than just a single computer with a modem. The students had full unsupervised access to anything and everything.

    Anyway, besides letting us fuck off as much as we wanted, he'd fuck off with us, and the subject matter of the fucking off was actually educational. We'd be dicussing some bullshit philosophy or he'd teach us about 4d space on the whiteboard or show us some cool math, or maybe kicking all of our asses at chess. It had chess boards and they were all being used, and none of these people could be considered nerds. They were artfags!!

    The kids who were cutting their classes to be here were actually learning stuff they never would have normally cared about. He was never an assigned teacher of mine and technically the entire experience with him was 'illegal', yet I think I learned more in one hour there than I did the entire day of school.

    He totally hated the school system and probably saw how stifling it was. While sitting in on one of the classes, he let students entirely choose their own grades without a comment, other than maybe "You really think you deserve a 95? ... ok".

    Sure, he let us get away with whatever we wanted, but at the same time, we respected him. We learned a lot from him and many of us probably don't even realize it. It reminds me of a painting called "The School of Athens". It portrayed all time great philosophers and artists and musicians just chilling in a huge room, and hundreds of students chilling with them, doing their own thing, or hearing the masters speak about whatever.

    The rest of the school day was just a boring slur of "..2 more hours until I can hit the computer lab.." or "..3 more hours until I can go the fuck home..". I think that makes him the greatest teacher I never had.

  • I worked my way up to AP computer science my senior year in high school, and ended up with a teacher that everybody dreaded- mr enenstein. He always ran a very tight class- if he even caught you chewing gum he'd make an example out of you; he would stop class while you went to throw your gum away. The sort of shit students REAALY hate.

    I thought I was hot shit, king programmer. I soon learned that was not the case! One of our first assignments was to randomly print the contents of an array. My solution? randomly pick a number between 0 and the length of the array, print that element, and set it to null. If I ever hit a null, try again until I hit something that wasn't null. He took one look at my short, seemingly elegant program, and promptly gave me an F. I was quite puzzled, as the program worked flawlessly. He explained- "Your program may seem to work flawlessly, but it's far from it. What happens if your random number generator is not up to par, and you never end up picking the last element of your array? Your program would be caught in an endless loop."

    With that he had me rewrite the whole algorithm to actually shrink the array when it removed elements, so that the random number that was picked would always reference a valid slot in the array. It took shitloads more programming, but it was MUCH more solid than my "monte carlo" approach.

    THat's just a small example of the sort of shit I had to endure, and by the end of the year I was so glad to be out of there!! It didn't really hit me until about a year later that he had actually managed to instill in me good coding practices. I'm probably one of the messiest people I know... there's barely enough room on my desk for my keyboard right now, but if you looked at my code you'd never know it. It's spotlessly clean- good indentation, comments, very consistent style. I CANT STAND sloppy code, and I have him to thank for that. :) I never did get a chance to truly thank him for it, but one of these days I will.
  • You don't have to just wait for a good teacher. Find out who they are and put yourself in their class! Bend the rules if you have to, get your parents to help if you're in grade school!
  • He taught CS for a while at Westfield State College in the early 80's. His love and enthusiasm for the field was infectious. He had us all buy Vic-20's and read Tracy Kidder's "Soul of a New Machine" before the first day of class. The chief lesson I learned from him (digested too late to save me from flunking out of college) was to start 'hacking' as soon as possible, i.e., when you get some knowledge on a new topic you're learning, go out and play with it/use it as soon as you can. Don't wait for an assignment to assimilate all the little pieces you get before the assignment.

    You know, the whole spiel...

    ; )

  • Apart from a grade 3 teacher who almose "adopted" me (to the extent of inviting me to her country place - with my parent's consent - for hunting trips), the best teacher I ever had was a grade 9 math teacher who explained calculus to me in 5 minutes.

    He drew an arbitrary curve: " this is the curve of your function ". He then hashed the area under the curve up to a point " when you integrate your function, you calculate the area of the curve ". Then, he drew a straight line tangent to one point of the curve " and when you differentiate, you compute the slope at that point ".


  • Basically you are responsible for educating yourself.
    However, there is so much out there, that someone
    who shows the way and cuts through the trivia
    is valuable.
  • My best teacher ever was Bruce Saunders, whom I had for history in 7th and 8th grades. I went to this middle school with a quasi-magnet program for highly gifted kids, called the IHP, so part of the experience was being surrounded by other smart people. Anyway, Saunders challenged us and talked to us like adults. I was a math-and-science nerd before then, which I know is what people here think of as being a real nerd. After his class, although I still am a nerd in that way, I'm more interested in history and politics. Saunders was the only teacher I ever had who totally changed my focus in that way.
  • While most people have a teacher they can point to that encurraged them to learn by intoducing them to some new science or something.
    I had one who tryed to discurrage me. This was messed up. She was busy telling me I could never learn basic math let alone computer programming.
    She went so far as to tell my mother that my intrests in computers should be discurraged.

    To make a long story short.. all she did was cement the image in my mind of her being an insult to the teaching profession.
    Such people are very rare but somehow they avoid being fired.
    I had one such person as a teacher...

    Teachers are in a position to encurrage kids to go on to great things. They are also in a position to distory lifes.

    I've had bad teachers.. over worked, dealing with local system politics, one on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But they all wanted to be great teachers. Most of my teachers were great, insperations of some sort.

    I couldn't single one teacher out and say "the best" most were great...
    I can single one out as the worst...
  • Although I have had a few good teachers, I have had many more terrible ones, and what motivated me was my despise of them. Maybe I should give some examples.
    In 7th grade, I had an awesome Latin teacher: he used donut holes and jokes to teach us Latin. In 8th grade I unlearned most of what i learned since my teacher was mediocre. I was unmotivated that year, but in 9th grade I had the good teacher again and it was a great year. Then in 10th grade, I had a despicable teacher who didn't know Latin himself, let alone posses any ability to teach it. However, I conquered that year because I hated him so much. I got a 99 on the final when he expected a 75 or so of me.
    More examples might be necessary: my 8th grade science teacher constantly forgot which way the earth rotated, and other pertinent principles. However, I hated her with such a holy passion that I aced the course and learned more than an only mediocre teacher would have taught me since i was forced to learn from outside sources.
    So good teachers might be a good thing, but terrible ones can work well too.
  • by KFury ( 19522 )
    Unquestionably, my best teacher was Fred Carrington, Physics teacher at Ulysses S. Grant High School, in Van Nuys, California.

    A Music Studies major, with a Physics minor, Derf got his teaching credential back when they gave blanket credentials to teach any subject. Teaching Physics, Derf's primary motivations were to make learning fun, and to make Physics intuitive.

    Thanks to Derf, I can still derive kinematic laws, EM equasions for magnetic flux insolonoids, even Lorentz Transformations, solely by remembering how physics (even special relativity) work intuitively, then deriving the math from there.

    Derf was responsible for my getting a double 5 on the Physics BC AP test in 11th grade, and was more interested in the lives of his students than any other teacher I've known. From sponsoring, organizing, and leading the Backpacking Club (even when it cost him a finger!!) to the Physics Olympiad, the Paper Airplane Contest, Egg Drops, April Fools stunts (did anyone ever get the tire over the flagpole?), and all the rest, Derf is a benchmark by which all other teachers are measured.

    Now that I find myself a TA/tutor for a graduate course, I'm looking back to the lessons Drf taught me, not just in Physics, but in learning.

    I salute you, Derf, for all that you've done for so many people, and I thank you.

    Sincerely, and with utmost gratitude,

    Kevin Fox
  • Although I've had some good, some great, and some bad teachers, no-one really motivated my as much as - myself!

    No-one else really fostered my love of computers and programming.

    No-one else really motivated me to get over the hurdle when I was struggling with some of the more difficult math in the CS program at college.

    No-one else has been around to help me keep learning many subjects as I continue post-college education, things like financial acumen, photography, cooking, hiking, snowboarding, telecommunications, automotive repair, etc...

    In short, I can't really point to any particular teacher and say that THEY made a huge difference in my life as much as I forged my own path. Some teachers may have cleared away some of the brush, but I always knew where I was headed...

    However, I must say that I owe being able to be my own best teacher to my mother, who really believed in John Holt's messages of Unschooling and continuous education. She's the one that guided me into thinking that you never stop learning, and you can learn anything you really want to and are interested in. For being my best Meta-teacher, thanks Mom!

  • I warred with my high school computer teacher. I was one of the few kids coming into high school that had a machine (TRS-80, baby!) and knew how to code it, and already had a reputation as king geek. There was nothing this guy could teach me! I knew EVERYTHING!

    Hardly. I learned alot from this guy, even though I didn't know I was doing it. Recursion, data structures, modular programming, all the foundations for what real coding is like. Sure, the stuff that he put into the curriculum to talk about for 4 days I picked up in 4 minutes (like any good geek would), but the fact is that I did learn things. He even knew when and where to strike the balance -- we (there were about 3 of us) only had to go to his class when he was starting a new subject. Other times we got to hang out in the lab. And he would great our assignments differently, to put more challenge in them. "Make a program that draws a birthday cake", for example, was intended to just be a bunch of println("****")s together (come on, this was 1985). I made one out of block graphics (remember what happened when you went after char(x) where x>127?) and made the lights animate. Or the time we had to write Conway's Life, so I made a 3d version. And a favorite, when a test question said "Write a sort routine, any sort routine" I wrote a recursive bubble sort :).

    Some favorite moments from class:

    • "Mr. Morin, perhaps if Miss Baldasini turned around and listened to me for a change she would understand what's going on."
      "She just told me she's not learning shit from you, that's why I'm explaining it."
    • "Mr. Morin, you are not my friend. You are not invited to my wedding."
      "Can I come to your funeral when you die?"
    • "Get out, Mr. Morin. Get out, get out, GET OUT!" (That'd be when I pulled a knife on another student as a joke, and Mr. Kendall didn't find it very funny.)
    Yup, I was a shit. I've often thought of going back to visit him and telling him how much he is to blame for what I am today (be it for good or bad :))!
  • Worst lecturer I've had:
    Was quite competant but,
    Told us how if our half year group project was handed up 1 minute late we get 0 and fail the subject (and therfore have to repeat another year).

    He then told us the story of a student who'd worked on the project for a few all nighters and crashed his car out of tiredness while trying to drive it in before due date. Then he laughed and he was friggin serious.

    Students put the guys pic on "am I hot or not". He got a 3.

    Best tutor:
    Was absolute computer nut, would help with absolutely anything to the point of actually checking your program's generated assembly code looking for weird errors. Would spend ages helping you (but without doing it for you) so you actually learnt something.

    And now that I've left uni I've come to realise I hated every single lecturor/tutorer at Adelaide uni except for David Knight (tutorer in question).

    Here's to you David :)
  • I like how their security plan was simply tell people off who went into the dos shell. My friend once got banned for playing around with network drives, not doing anything bad, just showing how easily it can be done.

    Granted there was a heck of a lot of stuff in IT exam that was never in classes, the worse part was when the exam asked me what does "this" algorithm do, and I pointed out where the algorithm crashes's, which they obviously didn't appreciate.

    But atleast I was never told that a mouse is a GUI :)
  • My high school AP physics teacher told us on the first day that for his class, the physics was secondary to learning how to problem-solve - to think through any challenge we would encounter in life.

    He was an excellent teacher for two reasons - he had an unsurpassed enthusiasm both for physics and for teaching. And that's the crucial combination...

    He also had a sweet remote-controlled random 'student selector' on his Apple II so no one could ever feel that he picked on them. Heh.

  • I would have to say, during my high school years, was a man by the name of Peter Schwartz (I think that is the spelling). He was my high school physics teacher, during my senior year (at Bakersfield High School, in 1990-91). I don't say he was my best teacher because he helped me in any particular way (not that he helped me to learn difficult physics concepts - he did), but how I saw him act as a teacher.

    He was a "strange" individual - and he truely was an individual, going against the grain in every respect. He tended to wear strange clothing (one day he came in with two different color socks - both were a hideous orange and green plaid, but a different pattern on each). He was a vegetarian (he once had for lunch a brocoli and garlic yogurt - one guy in our class said he tried it, and it wasn't bad - but it didn't sound good). He rode his bike to school - every day - no matter how cold, rainy or foggy it was. He would help students any time of the day, and stay as long as was necessary to help a student (even to 9 or 10pm!), then he would ride his bike back home. He was a dedicated teacher. He always made experiments in physics interesting - it was always hands on (one experiment he helped us to do, at the end of finals - was quantitatively figuring out the mass of an electron - using an old ocilloscope and some other equipment and algorithms. I remember that the mass that was found was only off by a couple of magnitudes - which is not that big of a deal, given the equipment we had to work with). He was a very dedicated teacher.

    I don't think one student left that class without learning something - from the smartest individual, to the dumbest (or least interested).

    He only taught there for that one year, as a break away from his work on his doctorate (I believe) thesis involving plasma physics (using a Tokamak at PPL) - from what he told us, he couldn't complete his work because someone fried the startup capacitor bank. He had the incomplete thesis in class - huge thing. From what I understand, he had degrees from both MIT and Princeton, had done the Peace Corp thing - and was teaching us. His age: 25.

    Our school lost a great individual when he left after that year. It was truely a loss. I caught up with him later via email at the PPL - he told me he was doing reseach in Materials Science. Don't know what he is doing now.

    If you read this Mr. Schwartz - I thank you for the impact you had on all of us. Good luck in your future life...

    Worldcom [worldcom.com] - Generation Duh!
  • ...was myself. If I hadn't taken some personal initiative and discovered computers and the artistry of programming, it is possible that I never would have escaped the rural Oklahoma cesspool in which I spent my first 18 years.

    SecretAsianMan (54.5% Slashdot pure)

  • The two high-school teachers who influenced me the most were my Honors History and Honors Lit teachers. My math teacher was another major positive influence.

    You want "negative reinforcement" when you do something wrong? Forget the usual high school crap. When you feel bad because your teacher is disappointed in you, that's when you know you've got a good teacher. (Amazingly like parents in that respect...)

    The most influential teacher in college was a CS prof who left to go into the seminary and become a minister.

  • My best professor by far is Dr Gilmore at my university. He is a prof. whose genuis and grasp of the elegance and beauty of physics dwarfs any physicist I have ever met. Apart from taking a class with on of the legendary greats, I cannot imagine possibly getting more out of a class than with Dr. Gilmore. I am currently taking a nonlinear dynamics class from him and it is absolutely fascinating. It probably helps that he's literally the man who wrote the de-facto standard book on catastrophe theory.
  • Let me be so bold as to make the assumption that you are an engineering major.

    You see, I am a Drexel student as well, and let me start with this disclaimer:
    Dr. Venkat is a dedicated and talented professor and also a man whom I am proud to know.

    HOWEVER, What makes Dr. Gilmore special is not only a desire to make his students learn and understand and all the things a great teacher does, but also the fact that the man is, not to put him up on a pedestal or anything, but he's a genius.

    Just as Energy II at Drexel is not an advanced thermodynamics course, I wonder how Dr. Venkat would fare at an advanced physics course. This is no way meant as an insult to Dr. Venkat, but rather a compliment to Dr. Gilmore. High-level physics courses are simply astoundingly difficult to teach in such a manner that students truly "get it." In four years at Drexel, I have only seen two professors of the entire Department who are really up to this daunting task. Unfortunately, the other, Dr. Narducci, is nearing retirement and is now focusing his efforts on the more advanced studies of his graduate students. Dedication to students is certainly a part of makes an outstanding teacher, and Dr. Venkat is certainly an outstanding teacher. Dr. Gilmore is a life-changing inpiration to nearly everyone who has ever taken a class with him. He's not just a great teacher, he is quite possibly the greatest teacher I or any of my classmates will ever have the fortune to meet

  • I'm sure a lot of geeks loathed their gym teachers. Here's my reason. I personally still hate Sue Reynolds, (East Detroit school district, Michigan) because she didn't believe asthma was a real condition.. "Oh, that's just another word for sissy kids." I wish that rather than stopping in the middle of a run and collapsing on the floor, I'd kept going to the point where I passed out. Maybe if I'd been hospitalized, that demon of a woman wouldn't still be working there. Instead, I got myself disciplined for insubordination.

    On a lighter note, I have to pay tribute to my HS biology teacher. Lotte Geller was the best, she challenged me unlike any other teacher. In a room that was part greenhouse, part lab, part classroom, and part candy store, my classmates and I got some of the best teaching around. The class I was enrolled in was just the basic 9th grade bio, but there was nothing basic about it. When I was done with the normal coursework, we'd talk about everything, my favorite topics included the folded structure of proteins and DNA, and the mechanisms by which genes were selected to be expressed. When Lotte didn't know something, it was up to me to find out and report back. Her stack of Scientific American back issues was at my disposal. I secretly suspect that sometimes she feigned gaps in her knowledge just to get me to do the research, because when I'd return from the library, she'd discuss my findings with a suspicious amount of background.

    I can't say enough good things about Lotte. For years I'd been less than enthusiastic about school, to say the least. Her class was the first that I really cared about, where I was disappointed in myself if I let down the teacher or my classmates.

    My class met immediately after her AP Biopsychology class, and I'd usually pass some of those students in the hall as they were leaving. "We talked about you again today", they'd say. Apparently I was a favorite example when certain conditions came up in class.

    I've been kicking myself lately for not having taken more bio courses in school, as Lotte insisted I should. Of course, the public school I transferred to didn't offer anything at the level I wanted to take, and I didn't go to college. If I do ever get off my ass and pursue biology, it'll be because of Lotte. May she rest in peace.
  • So i will post a little note about my experience. I had my computer science education at a liberal art school. The professors i had were not the best code writers arround and one admitted to being pretty behind on technology. He was more of a theory person, and well thats the way he enjoyed working. Well anyway, after taking an intro course with him you felt for a bit that "hey this guy does not know all that much". THEN you walk into his algorithm class, or his theory of computation (think finite machines etc) and you were just blown away by how exciting he made things.... I mean some of the algo's you read about left you light headed for a few hours (hell the Y-Combinator still amazes me).

    A LOT OF TIMES (maybe not always) profs dont get the credit they are due cause we think they are working us to hard or that the skills we are missing out (hands on java/IT issues etc) are more important.... bull crap! and he knew how important a solid background in math/theory was, and patiently got us at the same position.

    i think any prof. who wants to be a prof and loves to teach has to be given full credit...teaching a bunch of crazy college ppl can be a bit annoying would'nt you think...... so here is a slight quote (which i might be getting a bit wrong)
    When i came to college, I thought i had all the right answers..... after 4 years of learning, i am just beginning to ask the right questions
  • This is one reaons why I'm very proud of my calc teacher, Ms. Coté; She almost always finds a way of explaining a concept the right way so even the least mathematically-inclined in the class understand it. She has a very good approach, and not only that, but she's an extremely dedicated teacher: after a test, she spends *all* of her free time grading the test, and usually has the tests completely finished in just a day or two -- for all her 100+ students!

    Not only that, but she also stays after school for private tutoring for any student who is still struggling and wants extra help, even on days where it would be inconvenient for her...

    Her simple love for teaching is one of the few reasons I actually started doing my homework regularly for that class :)
  • Without a doubt there have been two teachers in my education that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

    Mr Skinner (Richmond BC), my grade 7 teacher can be credited with introducing me to Science Fiction/Fantasy and the wealth of ideas associated with that genre. He instilled in me an interest in literature of all sorts, in writing my own thoughts, and in research.

    In High School (Saltspring Island, BC, Canada), I was fortunate enough to be taught History and Geography by Ted Harrison. This wonderful man loved teaching, loved his students, and was innovative in his approach to teaching subjects (like using games to illustrate concepts - no study of the events leading up to WWI was complete without several games of Diplomacy for example). Without a doubt he was the best teacher I have ever encountered.

    Alas, due to unfortunate events I understand he is no longer teaching. This is a great loss to countless generations of students. Wherever you are Ted, Bravo! and Thank You!

  • this guy sounds very similar to the assembler teacher I had in college. We would have numerous tests, quizzes, and projects throughout the quarter, but your grade was based solely on an interview at the end of the quarter. He would sit down with you and ask you some questions about the programs you had written. If you had a firm grasp of the material (which he basically already knew from class interaction) it was a 5 minute interview and you were done with an A. Of course then there was the poor guy who was in there for 45 minutes. No one ever saw him in a programming class again. Then for second quarter assembler, I had this same teacher. The entire quarter who devoted to a project. The class was broken up into groups and you designed a program. It could be anything you wanted (with his approval). The 8 of us ended up programming a version of the old Star Trek game where you went to the different sectors and fought Klingons. It had working sound, a Gui, opening movie, etc. I learned more about real programming in those 2 quarters than the rest of my college experience combined.
  • My best teacher was a quite crazy physics teacher who regarded the curriculum as an interference to learning. He would walk into class, make a statement and then ramble through the relevant physics until he was satisfied. The best example I can think of was "The sun is going to die cause it is blowing off mass constantly... I wonder when? Then one class later having used the classes knowledge to work out just how much it was blowing off and how big it was he told us just how long we had (well we ignored the fact that as the suns structure changed its properties would also). He was a god, to such a degree that when our Vice-Principal whose office was directly across from the classroom came in after 15 minutes of the class to be told our teacher was sitting outside at the end of the building reading the paper, drinking his orange and smoking a few cigarettes while chatting to the groundsman he told us to sit down and be quiet....and didn't bother going near said teacher.

    The best part was his regular quote that "it's harder to fail the exam than pass it", the final response to which was two of my best friends screaming with delight and jumping around hugging each other as they came out from receiving their final results only to discover they had suceeded ... in FAILING! They had failed just about everything else aswell so it's not like they were diligent students who had been let down (trust me, they weren't).

    My worst teacher was my applied maths teacher for the last two years. In our mock exams, he gave me 0 marks for a question I had entirely correct (amongst other marvellous marking irregularities). I obviously queried him on this, and he said that it was not explained, I placed the paper in front of him and read it back, showing him just how I had achieved the result with a simple method he had never even thought of....his answer was "I looked at it wasn't the proper method and I didn't understand it instantly, and the examiner marking the paper mightn't either" (simple linear motion equations fully explained with copious amounts of text as I had long since learned that when it came to an exam with a teacher who knows me marking it I have to spell it out to them cause if I didn't most of them disliked me to the degree they said that as it wasn't explained it was invalid and did as this guy) . Bottom line I got 41% on the Mock (1% over a fail) thanks to his marking when it should have been 80%+. Come the final real externally marked exam I got an A1 (90%+) and never enjoyed showing a teacher a result as much in my life!

  • Well, i guess i'm going to say something that will disprove the usual "geeks are one-sided" stereotype - I noticed a couple of replies in this thread already doing that... My favourite two teachers in High School were Literature and History, despite attending a math/science oriented school (a close analog of NYC's Stuyvesant HS) and being a math/physics/computers geek. Both were incredible at not only giving you the material, but getting you interested and engaged in the subjects that they cared immensely about, without pulling the "this is required by curriculum and thus you shalt study it" on us. The history teacher was very unique, as she started teaching things that weren't politically permissible to talk about (this was USSR in early years of Gorby) long before the society as a whole started being open about the topics.

    However, I must say I've been blessed with great teachers all my life, starting with my parents - YES, the very best teachers I ever had simply because they taught me how to THINK and to learn and gave me the thirst for knowledge.

    Then there was elementary school Teacher, who managed to find some resources from her efforts to support my interest in math way beyond what the rest of the class was showing, and didn't mind it in the least when, one day in second grade, not only I have gotten a different answer to a math problem than her and other 41 kids in the class (yes, to all those Americans whining about large classes, we had 42 kids in elementary school class I attended), but after i've proven my answer right, she was GLAD, not angry.

    The next two, who are sadly no longer among the living, were teaching me when i became older... rest in peace, Yevgeniya Nikolayevna Anisimova and Alexandr Borisovich Voronetskiy.

    There was my first serious Math teacher, who first spotted me at the age of 6 - she and my parents were neighbours - and gave me a book of advanced math problems for the future when she moved. Later on, in 9th grade, when I tranferred to the Math/Science school, imagine her surprize at me showing up in her class - one of the best in Russia if you judge by various math contests on national level - and quickly getting my place on the city Math team.

    Then I must say a kind word about the man who wasn't my official school teacher, but a Teacher - he was training the city's math team and was responsble for my real interest in math by challenging us and refining whatever talents we had (read: Galois theory and Commutative Algebra by the last year of High School). Out of his group, 2 of us wound up in the top 3 spots in Russian National Math contests - and achievement any Master would have been proud of.

    The best professor in my NYU grad school years is, without a doubt, our Data Communications and Networks lecturer, who seems to have an energy of a supernova, comic abilities of Letterman and understanding of the subject that only someone who's been on IEEE commeetees and started dealing with TCP/IP in Bell Labs back when they just started working on it. Here's to you, Mr. Padovano!

  • The best teachers we have are the ones that teach us about life. I see alot of posts here about X teacher that made so and so work a little harder for their grade, or X teacher that helped a student learn this or that about physics.

    the teachers that usually have the most effect on our pre-adult minds are the liberal arts teachers. Philosophy, English, Art, - they make us more well rounded people. And i'm not talking about the parental clause (the adult tells the student "one day you'll see that this is true." and, 10 years later you realize they were right.) I'm talking about the teachers that made you change your mind. The teachers that didn't tell you they were right....they showed you they were right. The best teachers are the ones where everyday you walk out of that class and have an epiphany, not about an assignment, but about life.

    Mr. Moe was one of those teachers. He taught 11th grade English and 12th grade Humanities seminar. We studied books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Damian. Although my chosen field is one of computers. I think that Moe's advice and teachings have been more helpful than any of my comp-sci teachers or math or science teachers' advice could ever be (and ever was).

    I'm talking about one of those teachers that sharpens your critical thinking skills. Sure, i learned all the things that any 11th grade student was supposed to learn about literature, grammar, and whatever the hell else we were supposed to know. But the times he just talked with the class were some of the most enlightening experiences i've ever had. I suppose it's the same as college. They say the real knowledge gained at a university is outside the classroom. For me, the real knowledge i gained in highschool was not from reading Brave New World but from simply talking with Mr. Moe on a peer to peer level. And that, no book can ever replace.

    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network
  • I seem to have come off with far better luck in regards to teachers than about ninety-eight percent of the North American population, but a few stood out on top of that. The main ones I remember are my two history teachers, one of whom taught tenth grade (classical) and twelfth grade (20th-century) history, the other teaching eleventh which was pretty much the inbetween.

    The first guy had an unusually interactive teaching style, where he'd try to do as little speaking as possible. Instead he questioned the students a lot, asking them to explain or justify a given statement until they could either argue about it inside and out, or knew they were so off-base that they should try again sometime. He took the lectures more like a kind of storytelling, and was obviously deep into it, and his enthusiasm managed to infect the class. I remember one day when he was out of class for the day because of a dentist's appointment, and a couple of the school's more stoner-ier, slacker types who didn't care about anything were actually griping about missing one of his classes.

    He also taught by example a lot, and had an unnerving habit of bringing one knicknack or another from the area he was talking about (be it ancient history or modern) as examples. Had plenty of things like that and used them too.. The gladius hanging over his desk went into a big spiel on the Roman military; we spent a few classes with his scale model of the Rosetta Stone learning how to translate heiroglyphs and stuff.

    He also made the examples for other stuff he was teaching both funny and effective. For talking about the Battle of Thermopylae, he stood in the doorway with a yardstick and dared the front row of the classroom to try and dislodge him without getting whacked with the thing. In another class he was talking about nuclear fission by standing in the doorway and throwing a rubber ball (meant to represent a neutron) into the class (with the people meant to represent fissionables). When the ball didn't hit anyone despite bouncing around, he went on .. "Now, that's how things usually work - to make a really big bang you have to compress the mass together, make it harder for the neutrons to mi - EVERYONE HUG PATRICK!" Insert massive tackling of me, as well as being hit with said rubber ball three times on one toss. Eesh.

    The other guy was far more traditional, possibly in the 1890's-teacher-traditional - strictly organized lectures that seemed timed to a stopwatch, a class schedule that never wavered and God help you if you were goofing off in his class. However, his enthusiasm for his subject was still catching and got most of the students. He was like the history teacher AC mentioned in a way - if you didn't try in his class you didn't exist to him, but show any kind of effort and he'd go out of his way to help. The best thing I got out of his class (aside from massive training in university-style lectures) was the question, "Why?"

    The main thing he wanted to teach is that there is a reason behind everything, and a reason behind that reason, and so on and so forth until you're either far enough back that it doesn't matter or actually find the original relevant cause. You didn't know something in his opinion until you could explain why it was as it was. It made a huge difference between absorbing facts and actually understanding them; although I knew that difference beforehand I didn't quite realize how important it was until that year.

    Anyway, I am ever so babbling. ;)

    -Patrick Stewart
  • I actually didn't enjoy my assembly class that much. My professor's grading style was similar to yours, i.e. size matters, thus everybody, including myself, spent way too much time on their programs. Twenty hours of outside class time for a three hour class isn't acceptable. Yes, I got that A, but was it worth it??? I'll never go back to assembly again. People who enjoy trying to tweak their program for 2 less instructions are insane.
  • I tought myself most stuff. The teachers I had on my previous school didn't really teach me all that much interesting, really (gym -- yuck). The teachers I have now are supposed to teach me informatica, but well...

    So I learnt most stuff myself. That doesn't mean I didn't have teachers, because I read an awful lot of documentation and stuff to get there. So more or less, I am the one to decide what I want to know and to keep myself involved, and, well, just anybody out there is my teacher. From that perspective, viva open source! ;-)

    It's... It's...
  • Actually, I think that my best teacher was my High School swimming coach. Unlike a lot of coaches, he understood that the value of competitive sports was in the discipline and fitness that you picked up trying to win, rather than winning itself. He was willing to sit anyone who broke training rules, even the best athletes on the team for the most important meet of the year. I learned more about the value of setting goals and hard work from him than from all of my other teachers combined.

  • Anyone who took comp sci at Tufts University and got serious about it during college probably owes it to Professor Alva Couch. The guy was an amazing font of enthusiasm, giggling and jumping at the front of the class... probably a typical friendly old school geek/hacker in that regard. (He also had more than his fair share of non-computer related hobbies, photography, tandem-bicycling, I think some low woodwind or other...)

    He had an interesting way of running the class known as the "weedout" class for comp sci at Tufts, as well as some of the other less theoretical higher level classes. There were 4 or 5 big programming per semester. He'd pass out the assignment. 9/10 of the class would blow it off because it wasn't due for another few weeks but 2 or 3 of the hardcore students would tear right into it. Those students got personal attention, and really ended up collaborating with him to find good solutions... the problems were setup so usually he didn't have preconceived notions of what the best solution was going to look like. He would then disseminate the techniques discovered with those students to the rest of the class... nothing was more irritating than some punk getting equal results to you starting two days before the assignment was due, just by implementing the technique you invented, so the elites had to press on to even better independent tweaks and methods.

    You can see his old-school homepage here [tufts.edu]


  • As an elective (I'm a CS major), I enrolled in an anthropology course entitled Sustainable Development. When I arrived to class with a friend of mine, I saw that there was only one other person in the class, making it the smallest class I'd ever taken.

    When our professor arrived, Prof. Teleki, he immediately launched into questions about why we were here, what we wanted to learn, and our thoughts on the current state of the environment. His intention was to find out what we thought in order to model a course around us, something I'd never had done before. He immediately dismissed the course title as an attempt to put two words together that should never ever go together, just to see if the university would accept it.

    In the coming weeks we learned of his working with Jane Goodall, his attempts to establish a national park in Sierra Leone, and his work with (and against) the US government to prohibit illegal animals coming into our country that drug companies pay top dollar for. He forced me to refocus my common beliefs about how land should be handled with his opinion that national parks aren't places to be visited by tourists but places that should be entirely shut off from human intervention with no one allowed to enter them at any time. His interactions with the World Bank in the 1980's led him to believe that they are responsible for a large amount of the environmental destruction happening around the world. When I did my final project with him, I ended up meeting a World Bank employee in charge of a particular country who fully admitted that this was true, and that little was being done (or would be done in the future) to prevent the exploitation of people and resources.

    We would leave class either incredibly inspired, or downtrodden, depending on that day's discussion. He made me think of my future not as a time to find a job and settle down, but as an opportunity to do something truly different with my life, to use my gained knowledge in computers to affect people positively, rather than just settle down in some button-pushing tech job.

    The class ended almost a year ago, and I continue to keep in touch with him, going over his house for dinner, playing with his kid, and leading him through buying his first computer (he doesn't even have an answering machine). When my college education is finally over (this june), I will leave with my BA in Computer Science from the engineering school, and a firm desire to change the world from Professor Teleki.

  • I had a physics teacher in high school who could explain any and all facets of physics to anyone who was moderately interested, and who would explain whatever part of physics you ever inquired about, in or out of class. He was the kind of guy who could make physics seem like the most exciting thing on Earth, and his classes (including mine :-) were always in top 10 gradewise in my country.

    In computer school I had a teacher who taught us the fundamentals of algorithm design, algorithm analysis and optimization, data structure design principles and stuff like that - basic computer science. He could to it in a way that made it perfectly obvious to almost everybody how things worked. He just knew how to explain things, I guess. You could ask him anything about computer science you liked, and he'd find you an answer. Great guy.

    For a couple of months, our regular professor in mathematical analysis (a regular Mr. Boring) was hospitalized. During that period, some other guy from the math department took over, and we were swept away by his passion for math, and his ability to explain even the trickier parts of proofs with simple drawings, analogies and just plain good explanations. For two short months, math was very exciting, fun and downright entertaining.

    The latter guy is probably the most awesome of the three - I mean, I liked *math*. I've always liked physics and computer science, and math was just a necessary evil to support the two. But for two months, I really enjoyed learning math...

  • For some reason, and this may just be me, when I think of a great teacher and what they teach, technology is not high on the list. Like many /. readers, my education in technology didn't come at school...it came at work (Stream :::shudders:::). But that is probably not the reason I don't equate a great teacher with teaching about technology.

    I think this is because I equate technology more with experiencing things and practicing on my own, as well as discusions with people of my own age. And part of the process of learning about technology is creating your own. On the other hand, when I think about a great teacher, I think about someone who is teaching me "timeless wisdom" and things that are etched in stone. I would definitly think the best teacher is one that is in a hierarchal relationship with me, while I have always thought that learning about technology is more of a matter of equality.

    Does any of this make sense? Am I totally off-topic and off-base?

  • I'm actually not all that amazed at the lack of college stories. There are several reasons: In college, you take more responsibility for your own learning and you usually spend as much energy on socialization and networking as on pure academic stuff.

    Most of all, most colleges are way behind the curve on understanding how and why people learn. More so than any other educational institution, university exists primarily to reproduce itself and thus -- through hiring and tenure decisions -- professors tend to pick people like themselves. This sort of inbreeding runs directly contrary to the iconoclastic tendencies seemingly vital for a good teacher.

    Disclaimer: I am a high school teacher, so my view of college profs might be biased. :)

  • A middle school instructor, Mrs. Groos, taught my class to think creatively and apply the results. Sure, she let us play Civ on the 286's (which taught me more geography, politics, and history than any schooling I'd ever had), but the class had little to do with technology. She preached the principles of logic and encouraged us to use all of our available facilities to solve problems. No solution was rejected before being reviewed. Nothing was too obscure as long as it was effective and efficient. Often we were placed into groups for completing tasks. We had to use social skills to get anything accomplished. Looking back, Mrs. Groos was preparing us for both higher education and the working world. Solutions to real problems don't come in multiple choice format. Most projects are handled in teams, and often there are competing ideas to contend with. I gained valuable experience at an early age on dealing with co-workers. Problem solving skills, creativity, and team collaboration are the some of the most important things in programming. Or tech support. Or design. Or management. Mrs. Groos sharpened the tools needed in the real world - and did so with encouragement and direction that deserves the utmost praise.
  • Some teachers model our lives. Others shape our minds. Then there is the rare individual that doesn't do either. They just show that beyond what you know, beyond what you think everyone else knows---there is free thinking to be done. He was my high school Physics teacher. Not only did he realize that physics was about the physical universe, he instilled that all life is a search for knowledge. He wasn't the normal teacher. He didn't just grade tests and homework. He wanted you to see that beyond you home, your city, your MIND, there were things that needed research. Deep Thought. Not all questions were answered where they? Is it a computer program that draws your attention, or astronomy? He cared less about what you wanted to learn, as long as the desire to seek what was unknown was instilled. For me he was the origanal guy to say "think outside the box." This is something that I will forever cherish and hope that all young people shall grow up cherishing. If only there was a way to box and share what a teacher like this can do. All the world would be better. "Wow thats how they figure acceleration?"--Me 1996
  • Teacher's in India are mostly those people who can't find other work and resort to teaching as a last alternative. Considering that teacher's here are paid less than 150$ (5000 Rupees) in most places a month there's no doubt why. I was lucky enough to go to a private school and even there there were some teacher's who were lousy. But there were a lot of good ones. If I had to pick one it would be my 10th grade Mathematics Teacher (and also the school Vice Principal) Mr. Kapadia who left school 2 years back. I really can't pick out why everyone liked him so much ... he was impartial, funny, handsome, intelligent, dedicated. The biggest thing that stood out from him was that he was highly qualified himself. He chose this profession because he wanted to and not because he was forced to. I remember that in the 5 years he was in school ... he missed only one day. He'd be willing to teach after the school hours as well. Now he's in Pittsburgh doing a PhD on something related to black holes.
  • I was fortunate enough to go to a school with many great teachers, but one of my favorites was Dr. Holmes, who taught English. He was one of the few teachers at my school who actually had a Ph.D. To look at him, you would not think he was very likeable. He always wore a suit and a vest, and occasionally a stern expression as well. But in fact he was not stuffy at all, but quite congenial, and I think he was one of the best-loved teachers at the school.

    I think English is one of those topics which many students feel is extremely wishy-washy, that for example you can make an argument for whatever thesis you feel like supporting that day. Dr. Holmes showed me, at least, that that was false. Whenever he asked the class to interpret a passage in a book or a verse of poetry, and somebody came out with some outlandish and abstract perspective, Holmes would ask him to support that with specific evidence from the text. When that student tried to answer again, sure enough, his interpretation would usually end up unconvincing, and Dr. Holmes could always point out specific and convincing evidence for his own conclusions.

    I was always good in English, but I also had this wishy-washy perspective on the subject before I took Holmes' class. But not afterwards. I think this was the first time I really learned that critical thinking and reasoning is something that transcends formal systems like mathematics and programming.

    One thing I remember specifically which he said, and which surprised me at the time, was that students should major either in physics or philosophy, because these are the only two curricula at the undergraduate level which build critical reasoning skills. His perspective was that the undergraduate education is too short to study anything in depth, and so it should be considered as only a primer for graduate-level studies, which is when you should start specializing.

    His advice had a great effect on me. I had planned to major in computer science, but when I got to college I couldn't bring myself to do it, and chose physics instead. Unfortunately, I only pursued it for two years, and then switched to CS in the end anyway, but I did benefit from it, because I caught a glimpse of how theory and practice can be made to work together harmoniously, and how they inform each other.

    Now I am back in school, getting a Ph.D. in CS, and I can really appreciate what Dr. Holmes said. I think he was right about undergraduate education: it is too short to waste on studying specifics. The best way to spend your undergraduate years is to study a field which gives you a broad and solid grounding in fundamental reasoning skills. Physics and philosophy satisfy that condition, and I would also add mathematics. But CS is too specific and biased.

    Anyway, I am grateful for the opportunity to share this story with ./ readers. Maybe someone else reading this will know the Dr. Holmes I am talking about? :)

    Thanks, Dr. Holmes!

  • There are three teachers I've had that have knocked my socks off, taught me things that I'd not known possible some years before, and brought me closer to the pursuit of Knowledge.

    Bob Ross, teacher of American Studies at Davis Senior High School, was able to give us a clear view into the past not by lecturing endlessly, but instead by forcing us to discuss the past through the lens of the present. His tests would leave students shuddering, but his grading was fair. You knew he read all your papers all the way through, mostly because he wrote a response to every one. Thank you for inspiring an interest in local politics.

    Dr Andy Katz and Dr. Jules Steinberg served as my mentors and teachers in the Political Science Department at Denison University. They are two of the wisest, most fascinating men I've ever met. Their styles, different and unique, they often taught in classrooms where the apathetic and the bored stayed away, for fear they might be called upon and have to defer. Each made relationships with all their students, knowing them all by name, knowing where they were from and what they did in their spare time, they could make even the most abstract concept (postmodern deconstructionism) seem straightforward and clear. Thank you gentlemen for giving me the ability to read cogently, to form thoughts intelligently, and be responsible for my own opinions and thoughts.

  • If I had to pick a good teacher, it would be my most recent one, Michael Siff at Sarah Lawrence College. He helped me out of a sticky situation involving an internal sexual harassment suit with a female student (being a computer nerd, I was both devastated and afraid to make an argument for myself, in fear that I would bother people. I just wanted to be left alone -- which could have been my destruction because I would then fail to defend myself.)

    Michael spoke on my behalf, continued to teach my 5 credit computer workload, and generally stuck up for me, both personally and professionally.

    I don't know if "teaching Open Source" would be a consideration of what a "good teacher" is, but I know, as a friend, Mike was invaluable. Thanks, Mike.

    -Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

  • No, it's not really a defense, but in a situation like this (when I didn't actually do what she said I did) being someone who doesn't normally go against others publically and verbally was actually quite a problem.

    If I didn't have others to speak for me, and help myself speak, I would have been dead in the water.

    -Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

  • References are said to be eliminated when I graduate from the college (in one semester).

    As for the student, the ruling was held in both of our favors (and also, in effect, levied against both of us). Thus to settle tensions I have been made to live off campus which, while devastating, was my plan anyway (to get an apartment for my final semester). It's a harsh decision but it's better than not being allowed to graduate, which was a possibility.

    To anyone who has similar charges levied against them, and are false, remember to be firm but tolerant. There are very strong emotions involved and even if you know you've done nothing wrong, remember the other person may feel you have.

    -Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

  • All the teachers I had through high school seemed to be bent on the idea that education is a means to an end. I had some great teachers, but they did nothing to help their students learn outside of class.

    It wasn't until a 3rd year French course that a Assistant Prof. (new Ph.D from Yale name Darryl Lee) showed me that learning is the destination. My entire life shifted around this new idea. The funny thing is that there was no way before that I would graduate in four years. Using this mentality has allowed me now to be out in four.

    Of course, now I'm applying for grad school...

  • I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. I am a teacher and I know that some of my students feel that I am an incompetent loser. I can tell; I see it in their closed expressions, their absolute refusal to commit even the smallest amount of intellectual effort or curiosity to the course.

    Most of them come into the class with that mindset. They have been turned off somewhere before they get to me, and I haven't been able to turn them back on. A few, I regret to say, I seem to have turned off myself; apparently, my enthusiasm for literature did not communicate itself to them. I always regret that.

    A few, a very few, I have been able to reach. They start the year closed and leave it open. Somehow, I managed to reach them. Or perhaps it was another teacher, and it spread to my class.

    But you will pardon me if, despite my regrets, I do not wallow in grief about those students who are turned off. I firmly believe that most people are as happy as they want to be in school, always excepting those whose life experiences outside of my class preclude happiness anywhere. My class is not "boring," too many students tell me they enjoy it. The student is "bored," a choice he/she has made.

    Fine. Be bored. It isn't my job to entertain you, although I try to make my presentations as interesting and stimulating as possible. Do the work, bored or not, and you'll get the grade. Don't do the work, however enthusiastic you are, and you'll flunk. That's the standard I was hired to use, and that's the standard I believe in.

    But I doubt that most of your teachers were incompetent losers. I'll bet that there were many students in the same classes you attended that found those same teachers interesting, informative, caring, and effective. Perhaps they did not meet your particular needs. But perhaps you never gave them a chance to. Both situations happen. As for 6 figure salaries, I appreciate that idea. It might indeed make the quality of the teaching profession higher. Regretfully, I doubt that it will ever happen. And even with a 6 figure salary, I doubt that the most inspiring teacher in the world will be able to reach a student who is determined not to learn, not to cooperate, and not to care.

  • My High School Physics and Chem teachers were the best. They would do stuff that got your attention. The best demonstrations are the ones where you think you know what happens next only to be shown otherwise. We learned to expect the unexpected. One instance comes to mind was playing with very cold tempratures. You know the usual, dip roses, balloons etc. and smash with a hammer and pound nails with hot dog. To add some learning, the suprise was they used oxygen instead of nitrogen.(search for the web site on lighting a BBQ with liquid oxygen for a large scale demo of the same experiment) A lit cigarette was spectacular but expected. However a stamp size piece of notepaper was the big suprise. Soaking it and dropping on the counter did nothing unusual, but tapping it with a hammer was very impressive. We not only learned about cryo physics, but was introduced to the diesel engine physics. The paper went off like a firecracker!
  • The best teacher that I had would probably be my 6th grade elementary school teacher. I was a very secluded kid. I didn't care about anything, including school. This teacher immediately noticed that and did whatever she could to help me out. She actually cared about her students and what they learned. She would also make subjects like history come alive in the way she would tell stories of things like the same damn boring story of columbus or whatever. The majority of the students didn't realize they were being taught the same thing over and over and over each year, but I did and i hated it. I couldn't stand having to put up with that crap and this teacher noticed and would let me do other things instead of doing "practice exercises" with the rest of the class. I really enjoyed what she did for me, and her impact lasted a few years until I reached highschool, where i stopped caring again, but there were no teachers there to re-spark my interest in school so I dropped out. Now i'm working for the government making 5x than the average of what the rest of my class is making now.

  • My most influential teacher would completely deviate from district's standard lesson plan. He'd bombard us with stories from his travels and cool facts from literary sources we would never have been exposed to. He stressed vocabulary that still impresses to this date and taught advanced math to those students who could handle it. He engaged the students in examples and kept the class fun. And can you guess who got the axe when it was decided that one teacher had to be let go? I suppose the administration didn't like his approach, but he sure inspired me. Thanks for goin' the extra mile Mr. M!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2001 @01:42AM (#492908)
    There are two great teachers that stick out for me. Most importantly was my 10th Grade history teacher in high school. He wasn't the friendliest person to everyone in class, and lots of people hated him, but those that hated him didn't try in class, which is why he didn't care what they thought. If you tried, and cared about class, he was a wonderful person. He also taught economics and instead of making me sit thru a class he knew I would have to take in college again, he let me write a paper on how the internet will change the economy, which he felt was more important than doing a scantron test on vocabulary questions. He also helped me outside of school with a problem when he didn't have to, but even without that, he was the best teacher in high school, bar none.

    In college, the teacher that has been best was my freshman english teacher. He would be frustrated by my occational sleeping in his class (long nights of work combined with 8 AM Calc made me sleepy in there), but I did the work better than anyone, and challenged people in class when they tried to make a statement, but didn't have anything to back it up. We had a journal we had to do every term that, honestly, was totally pointless. I told him this, he understood how for some people, it was a total waste of time. He let me out of doing it for the year as long as I just went to talk to him about how they could improve the class (it was the first year of it, same students and teacher for a whole year) when I felt I needed to talk. That was what college teachers were supposed to be like, understanding to the fact that not every student is the same and ideas need to be challenged.

    There are other teachers I'm missing, like my math teacher in 7th and 8th grade, and my CS professor who would invite me over to drink beer and smoke pot (ah, good old college stories), and many others, but those two were the best since they cared about you as long as you cared about what they thought and you would adjust to fit each other. If more teachers would realize that every student isn't the same, it would be a better educational system in this country.

  • by tjansen ( 2845 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @03:26AM (#492909) Homepage
    My best teachers have always been books. They are there when you need them, usually you have several to chose from and when you dont like a book you can easily take another one. Unlike school/university, you can decide what you want to learn. Two hours reading Richard Stevens books can teach you more than any teacher could, especially if you are in a crowded class.
  • by Croaker ( 10633 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @08:30AM (#492910)
    One teacher (whose name, sadly, I don't even remember now) I think had a major impact on my life, early on.

    This was in kindergarden (aka pre-school), so I was 5 or 6. For some reason, I was curious about the temperature of fire. So, I asked one of the teachers (or, more likely, she was a teacher's aide. She was really young, early 20's I guess).

    Now, I would expect that most teachers, these days, would say something like "really hot" and send me on my way. Who knows, they might have noted down my interest in fire someplace, lest I turn out to be a pyromaniac. This also wasn't part of some lesson plan. This was just a play period, where presumably the teachers were taking a break, while watching to make sure we didn't destroy the classroom.

    But this younger teacher said "I don't know." Now, that acknowledgement that she didn't know something in itself seems pretty rare. But what made this unique was what she said next: "Let's find out!" We went over to a desk, where she pulled out a small thermometer. She then fished through her purse and got some matches (this was the early 70's, remember... everyone seemed to smoke). She had me hold the thermometer while she lit the match, and held it near the thermometer's bulb.

    Well, the thermometer was probably something made for measuring room temperature, so it only went up to 120F or so. The mercury shot up to the top of the thermometer pretty quickly, so she pulled the match away. "Well, it looks like the thermometer doesn;t go up that high," she said. "But, at least we know that fire is hotter than 120 degrees."

    So, I didn't actually learn how hot fire is, but I did learn a more important lesson: when you have a question, you can try to find the answer yourself. This is, to me, the essence of what learning (and ultimately, science) is all about. To not show kids through actions like this that they can learn for themselves, only causes the death of curiosity, which I think is the biggest risk we face these days. In this info-rich world, are kids given a reason to experiment, and find things out for themselves?

    I'd say, a *good* teacher needs to foster the curiosity and explorative nature of his or her students. Instead of handing out facts and figures to memorize, have them find things that interest and excite them.

    Unfortunately, this seems rare, judging from my later experiences, especially in "science" classes.
  • i only ever had one teacher that truly understood that: Tony McCann, 12th grade english. yes, an english teacher, even though i'm very much a technical person. I never really liked english class that much until i had him, since he was the first person to treat it like more than the prescribed curriculum. he gave us assignments, but no assignment was outright required, or had rigid requirements. He graded us on what he thought of what he thought we were learning, not on some objetive-esqe evaluation of trite questions about the same "classics" that people have been reading in school for decades.

    He gave us a day off on the first day after the leaves started falling so we could appreciate its beauty, and again when things bloomed in spring. that, in itself, might seem stupid, but he was also teaching us to recognize the beauty we see everyday.

    he didn't just teach us a curriculum. he taught us something much more valuable than memories of having read and overanalyzed a John Steinbeck book. He taught us to think about all these things for ourselves. He worked in the fringes of the system and showed us that we don't need to stick to the prescribed curriculum of life.

    I would often (more like virtually always...) stay after class just chatting with him because he was such an open, accessible person, with no pretenses. He did not look on us as students, but as people.

    When i got my Eagle Scout award the following summer, i invited him to speak, since i have rarely respected anyone as much as i respected him. I will never forget him or the lessons he taught me.

  • by PacketMaster ( 65250 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @05:29AM (#492912) Homepage
    I don't know where you go/went to high school but I thought most of my high school teachers (I'm a college grad now) were actually pretty good. Sure there were some of the burned-out ones who'd been there too long, but for the most part they were all very knowledgable and personalable individuals.

    My father is a primary school teacher and thus I've known an entire school of teachers from the time I was small and again, none of them are losers or morons.

    As for the lack of competition, you obviously know nothing about that which you speak of. Getting a job in a school district is incredibly difficult because of such a low turn-over rate. Many new grads spend YEARS as per diem substitutes before they can move into the "year-long substitute" position for a teacher who's ill or on sabatical. Sure teachers don't make as much money as a tech worker or business executive, but they chose what to go into and knew the salary and job market when then entered it. They also have a three month vacation in which to do other things to make money. My parents raised three children on one teacher's salary. My father did different things in the summer to make additional money from computer lessons (back in the TI-99 and Atari days) to landscaping work.

    Most teachers really love their job and it's the few students nowadays that really want to learn and recognize the value of their teachers that really make the teacher's jobs worthwhile.

    My favorite high school teacher, among many that I liked, was Mr. Altmire. He was one of the english, rhetoric and writing teachers. He was also the debate team coach. He made class a lot of fun, but at the end after all the fun you really thought "wow, did I really get a lot out of that class."

    It's not just the teachers that make your high school experience, it's also what you make out of it. It's up to YOU to decide to give it your all and to participate, etc.. and then you'll succeed. If you don't learn that in high school when the goings easier, you're in for a rude shock in college or the work force.
  • Final year high school subject (though I still had a year to go, I did the subject early).

    The subject's name: Information Processing and Management (IM&M)

    A week before the exam, and we are being taught for the 1st time the stuff that will be on the exam (we wasted the year playing with Excel and Access)

    Sitting in a group, giving us a quick rundown on things.

    We reach the mouse.

    My teacher pipes up:
    A mouse... Well, a mouse is a GUI.

    I, and a few others, were dumbfounded. We didn't even TRY to fix that. No, she didn't confuse it for being a way to interface with a GUI, the mouse IS the GUI.

    Thank god I got out of that class alive...

    (The other 'bad thing' that springs to mind was using NT's command prompt to ping to see if the network was up and copping it for 'accessing DOS'...)

    Anyway, time to supress these memories again...

  • The best teacher I've ever had was a highschool computer science teacher who discovered after the first class that his students knew far more about the subject than he did. So instead of blindly plowing through the course (the way all the other teachers had), he told us to build/code something cool by the end of the year. Then he stepped out of the way.

    I've never seen students work so hard in my life. By the end of the year we'd designed built robots, a sound card, a TV capture card, a digital flute, at least one operating system, and more software than I can count.

    Never underestimate the power of letting a knowledgable class forge for themselves. The results can be spectacular.

  • by ClayJar ( 126217 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @03:32AM (#492915) Homepage
    The best teacher I ever had was Mr. Arsenault. It would be hard to tell you everything about him, so I'll just say that his sense of humor (including quite a dry wit) and acceptance of students was phenomenal. One example for you:

    He would never get mad, and he played the quintessential straight man (the Abbot of Abbot and Costello, but with a much more intelligent air). One day, one of his senior classes locked him out of his classroom. While most other teachers I've had would have marched straight to the office, he marched straight to the edge of campus to the maintenance sheds and got an extension ladder (his room was on the second floor). He then proceeded to climb up the ladder and through his classroom window; then he walked up to the chalkboard and without even cracking a smile (a major feat while pulling off an act like this), he picked up the chalk and began teaching as if nothng at all was out of the ordinary.

    People told that story for years, and it was only one of a bunch. He understood what you had to do if you wanted to get people to learn, and he'd do it. He'd help anybody that needed it. He taught me geometry in 9th grade while I was also taking algebra, and in the same class (of two), he taught a senior (I hope she's done well in life; she was quite slow).

    Oh, and since it doesn't take the whole hour to teach geometry if you only have two students, he'd let her work on her homework so he could help her with any problems, and we'd play chess the rest of the hour... he won the year, but I actually won one more game than he did. (That's the problem with playing matches and sets.) :)

    Anyway, there you go. (My second best teacher has much less a sense of humor, but he used to take classes on camping trips... you haven't lived until you've played our variant of capture-the-flag/chase on a raining, moonless night in Louisiana backwoods.)
  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @10:58AM (#492916) Homepage
    My best teacher? That one's easy. Name's Mark Schroll. He was my instructor for Electronics and, later, R&D in high school. This guy had to be the coolest teacher in the world. When a friend of mine mentioned to him that stawberry poptarts would shoot big, scary flames when toasted for too long, he brought in an old toaster the next day. For the last 6weeks of electronics, he taught us how to create holograms, using the laser equipment the school had purchased at his recommendation. Every one of us took one of our own design home. He actually knew his subject, in and out, and he never forgot a single one of his students. (I went back 3 years later, he greeted me by name. He was the only teacher that did.)

    It was in his class that I first saw the ENTIRE "Connections" series, and also the movie "Sneakers". He was friendly, outgoing, funny as hell, and very, very good at passing on his knowledge. He was the only teacher I had that made sure that we didn't just repeat back what he said, but that we actually UNDERSTOOD it. I hope everyone has a teacher like this guy; if I had had more teachers like him, I would have enjoyed school a lot more.
  • by Teechur007 ( 305420 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @10:29AM (#492917)
    This is called maturing. It has little or nothing to do with the teachers that come along the way. It is a biological process.

    Can you honestly say that you are solely the sum of your biology? If so, you are going against all known science. I thought that we were past the "nature vs. nurture" argument...it's been agreed that it is a combination of both that makes us the people we are...but since you are apparently a student of the sciences, I assume you knew this.

    I have taught both 8th and 9th graders for some time now, and would like to inquire who gave that young, gangbanging girl her confidence? I would hope her parents (it looks like it was not, from what I know), but it was most likely from the success and care she experienced in her prior year of school. Many children do not "blossom" in 9th grade...in fact, I've found the opposite to be true. Ninth graders are actually less outgoing in general than eighth graders. They are scared to death of many aspects of high school; for most, it's new and in a different building, with much older, more mature kids. Don't you all remember how you viewed seniors when you were freshmen?! They were gods! But that's all just anecdotal...here's some more substantial proof.

    Under law, teachers act "in loco parentis," or "in lieu of parents" while they are at school. Think about it...by law, teachers are the "parents" of every one of their students while those students are at school. Most teachers view this in a legal sense only...that they are responsible if a child gets hurt while at school. But are parents only responsible for making sure their children are not "hurt?" NO! They are responsible for their student's overall well being, and many teachers do not view teaching in this way. Thus, just as there are negligent, uncaring parents, there are many teachers who are negligent in their duties as well.

    So yes, you are correct, many teachers could be replaced with a beach ball, and little more would be accomplished in their classrooms. A heated blanket has more electricity running through it than some teachers do! However, please do not dismiss those teachers who truly DO care for their students, and wish to help give them the confidence they need to mature into strong, intelligent, successful people. They are usually the ones we remember as our "best."

  • by pb ( 1020 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @01:48AM (#492918)
    My best teachers always challenged me, and made the challenges either fun, or interesting.

    I had a teacher for Assembler who, for the last project, told us that he was going to grade it only on (a) if it works correctly (80 points) and (b) our count of instructions executed relative to the rest of the class (20 points). Also, there was a 25-point bonus (or really an automatic 125) for writing a program faster than his program.

    I managed to beat him by an instruction or two, but it wasn't easy! I ended up working far harder than I should have for that extra 25 points, but it was definitely worth it.

    The challenge was this: given four numeric characters of input that are not all the same, (1122 is valid; 1111 isn't)

    1. Sort the number from greatest to least
    2. Print the result
    3. Subtract from this the same number sorted from least to greatest.
    4. Loop; terminate when two successive results are equal.

    Example: 4377

    It was well worth the time spent. Hint: the final program was well under 100 x86 instructions to implement; the early implementations were well over 500, though! :)
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • by James Dean ( 28259 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @01:39AM (#492919)
    First and formeost in my mind is Dave Cagley, my Drama teacher my senior year of high school. Dave, as we knew him, came into our lives when the previous Drama teacher contracted Lupis and had to leave. It was great because for the first time we were learning real acting and real theater and stuff that we could use in the real world. But not only that but he taught us about confidence and going into any situation in life with the outlook that you are going to win. When we were on stage he pushed us to win. To win the moment. That philosphy he urged us to carry into other parts of our lives. To win at what ever objective we were pursuing. Then there was Fred Myers, my senior English teacher. He brought the beauty of the written word to life for us. He took a bunch of apathetic and ill-educated high school seniors and brought literature to life for us. Not only that but he urged us to see the lessons that these books could teach us. He also had us take a look at popular culture and to really examine what made us like the things we liked. It was fantastic. Mike Mikulics, goverment teacher taught us that it is not only right but it is our duty to question our leadership. Good teachers are hard to find but those that we do find need to be treasured and allowed the room to educate children as they see fit. The common thread amongst all of my most influential teachers is that they thought outside the box and weren't afraid to step outside the cirriculum if that meant educating us better.
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <(ten.xofwons) (ta) (xofwons)> on Sunday January 21, 2001 @05:45AM (#492920) Homepage

    I had 3 teachers who really made a difference...

    In the 2nd grade, I was in a classroom where both the 2nd and 3rd grades were taught. Generally, one grade level was brought to a small area for lessons while the other worked on assignments. I asked if I could take both grades at once if I kept up with the work. The teacher simply agreed, telling me I could proceed so long as my work was good. She didn't lean on me or breathe down my neck, simply let me do my thing. I got all As in all courses for both grade levels.

    In high school, I had an English teacher who taught English almost as a secondary thing. Her class was all about life lessons; what it feels like to be an adult, to get older, to enter real relationships, to age - on and on. She tried to give us a picture of the real world, something which was lacking in every other classroom I've been in. Almost every time she'd start talking, I'd listen and drink it all in - no other teacher had me doing that.

    Lastly, in my senior year of high school, I had a computer teacher who just got excited about what I was doing. That was it. He'd get excited, tell me it was cool, and stay out of my way. He let me work on pretty much whatever I wanted, so long as I was actively doing something. I ended up publishing a game I'd written in class, and that was the start of my career.

  • by Minupla ( 62455 ) <minupla&gmail,com> on Sunday January 21, 2001 @03:45AM (#492921) Homepage Journal
    Well, just to prove that not all learning occurs in school:

    My vote for best teacher has to go to Ken McVay, (now well known for the Nizkor Archives [nizkor.org], which became his passion after I was his student.

    When I first ran into him he was running the local FidoNet BBS system. I was about 12 at the time. Ken was locally famous for his lack of patience with anyone under 30. I was the sole exception to this rule in the time I knew him. I was running a local Commadore 64 standalone BBS system, and Ken felt that I should move up and become part of FidoNet, and helped, through his part pile and the part piles of people he knew, me put together a pile of parts that it was possible to assemble into a 4.77MHz IBM compat. I was in 7th heaven. Over the years, Ken was responsible for my first exposure to multiuser systems (QNX), unix (Xenix), and became my first employer at his local computer store.

    So here's a toast to the Crumudgeon, the most influencial teacher in my life!

    Remove the rocks to send email

  • by tartanboy ( 262669 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @01:50AM (#492922)
    Well i used to have this teacher named Mrs. Robinson, and we used to do all kinds of great things together... Walks in the park, romantic dinners, days on the beach.... Oh wait... damn, I'm getting reality and imagination mixed up again! Damn you Paul Simon!
  • by rjh ( 40933 ) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Sunday January 21, 2001 @06:31AM (#492923)
    One of my college profs, Leon <last name deleted for privacy's sake>, is the person who probably taught me the most about CS of anyone.

    When I was a freshman I had a major leap on everybody else because I already knew Pascal. (Yes, folks, back in those dark days, that was the language of academic computer science.) I had all the programming coursework done in the first week of class, and all the homework done shortly thereafter.

    My first exam, then, I was deeply surprised to see that he docked me three times as many points as the next fellow for a specific programming question, even though our answers were absolutely identical. I was angry and asked him why I was docked more severely--and, for that matter, why I was docked at all.

    "Well," Leon said, "you declared this as a global variable, not a local--" I interrupted him at that point and made some rash statement about how Joe over there did the exact same thing and Leon docked him hardly anything at all.

    Leon's answer? "I judged you more harshly because you know better than he does."

    I walked away from that exam with just a burning rage at how my A was getting eviscerated down to a B+ unfairly. I couldn't drop the course without screwing up my entire degree plan, though, and I couldn't get into a different section, so I was stuck with that petty tyrant, Leon.

    Once I realized I was stuck, I went back to all the code I'd hammered out in the first week and removed every single global variable from it. It was bad enough that I got nailed once, but I'd be damned before I'd be nailed twice.

    Every time homework came back to us I'd find myself judged more harshly than other students; I'd have points docked off for things other students were able to get away with altogether, or I'd get docked for using the algorithm he supplied instead of researching a better, more oprimal algo, or what-have-you. My ire kept on going up with every returned homework assignment, every exam, every pop quiz.

    And after each and every one of these deaths-by-a-thousand-cuts, I went back to my code and fixed it. I went back to my homework file (remember how I did all the homework the first two weeks?) and amended my answers.

    By the end of CS 101, my grade had fallen from the A I was Anticipating to a C I was Chagrined at. It especially boiled my noodles that I was head and shoulders the best programmer in that class, and I was getting one of the lowest grades in the class.

    When the course was over and I was waiting for final grades, I was dead certain I was going to be filing a complaint with the Administration. I finally got my grade, tore it open, and lo and behold... 100, A. The registrar sent me a note in campus mail congratulating me on the "rare feat" of passing a course without missing a single point. Parents were happy, friends were happy, I was ... confused.

    I stopped by Leon's office and asked him what was up with the schizophrenic grading. He explained there was nothing schizophrenic about it. "But I had a C," I said. "How did I get an A?"

    Leon patiently explained to me a grade is meant to show how well a student has learned the subject he's been taught. "Right," I said, "and my grades were lousy. You kept on nickel-and-diming me everywhere, on stuff that wasn't even important."

    No, Leon told me. He was teaching everyone else in the class how to program, and that's what the tests measured. Sure, I was flubbing those tests, but those tests were irrelevant because he wasn't teaching me how to program. Instead, he was teaching me was how to program well, and he measured that on an entirely different scale.

    My senior year I had to write a thesis. I chose cryptography as my topic and requested Leon for my advisor. The day before graduation, Leon and I sat down in his office and discussed what the last grade of my last year was going to be. He was complimentary about my work and said that, between the thesis and the research I'd been doing connected with it, I undoubtedly deserved an A, if not an A+, for my efforts. "But I'm only going to give you an A-," he said with a grin. "As a reminder to you that there's always more."

    That's the most important CompSci lesson I've ever learned.

    Thanks, Leon. I owe you.
  • yes, that's right. I started with the trs-80 model 1 [geocities.com] when it first came out (or about a year afterwards, when I could afford it). it taught me most of what I needed to know to be very successful in my field (I'm a software engineer).

    I spent countless hours with that system. most of my ability to approach problems and solve them (technically, at least) came from the time I spent hacking code (and hardware) for 'my personal computer'.

    back in '78 or so, when it first came out, personal computers were a novelty and fascination. and you felt special if you posessed one of these in your home. you wanted to spend all your available time with it, and with so many hours comes a level of 'grok' that can only be attained by hardcore overtime.

    I found that since I was in my early teens when I got my first computer, learning to relate to the box at its level became second-nature to me. by the time I was college age, the computer science classes were almost trivially easy and the lab assignments were unchallenging as well.

    I fully believe that getting exposed to computers very early gives people such a huge advantage later on - especially if they go into that very field. the radio shack trs-80 [trs-80.com] was the first system to be so widely available to anyone who wanted it, and it had a 'cool factor' that, at the time, was undenyable. give a kid one of those and if he really gets into it, he's just found himself a high paying and secure career for life.


  • by Halon50 ( 195294 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @02:16AM (#492925)
    I'm not convinced. They deserve higher salaries, but not for the competition it would bring to the field. Most teachers in public education are in the job because they love the payment that comes in forms other than money. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part these teachers put up with the really poor salary to truly make a difference in the public education system.

    A particular example comes to mind. After getting out of high school, I TA'd there a couple years later for a "new generation" teacher got hired the year after I graduated. This instructor taught introductory computer courses to mostly lower-income 7th- and 8th-graders, something given to every new teacher their first couple of years to "stress test" them and see if they survive. If they make it past those years, then the school "allowed" them to teach high school (grades 9 through 12).

    Anyways, the classes I TA'd for this teacher were pretty uneventful through most of the year. We handed out coursework in PASCAL (this was in the days before C/C++ and Java were the norm), graded tests, answered programming questions, and generally tried to offer these kids the chance to break free of their "gangbanger" mindset, and grow both mentally as well as spiritually.

    The gem of this class came one day when, while the other kids were at their stations working on the latest programming project, one young black girl just refused to move from her desk, saying she just "couldn't do it any more," all the while sobbing, tears streaming down her cheeks. At the time she was dressed in a thin pair of sweatpants and a Raiders jacket, attire not uncommon among the streets of Southeast San Diego (Golden Hills). While I took care of the more mundane tasks of the classroom, our instructor sat down next to her, took her hand, and slowly built up her confidence in herself and her own abilities. By the time the bell rang, the girl was still a bit shaky, but had stopped sobbing, and even smiled at a joke or two the teacher sent her way.

    Fast forward one year.

    I revisited my old high school stomping grounds to say hello to some old friends in the faculty and staff, when I saw the same girl, now in the 9th grade, walking down a hallway talking with two friends. Her appearance had totally changed. Now, instead of wearing ratty clothing, she wore tasteful, brightly-colored clothes. Instead of holding a thin, nearly-empty paper folder in one hand, she gripped at least two textbooks and a Trapper Keeper stuffed with notes and assignments. Instead of walking the hallways with her head down, avoiding contact with everyone, she held her head high, her eyes bright with intelligence as she talked cheerfully with her friends.

    The change was absolutely stunning to me. She stopped when she saw me, and we talked for a little bit. She mentioned plans to go to college after graduation, something that would have been totally unthinkable to her a few short months ago. I could hardly believe the changes she made in her self-confidence, and when I asked her what made her re-think her future, she referred to the incident in the computer classroom the year before.

    When people ask me if I would ever consider becoming a CompSci teacher after I finish college, I mostly just shake my head and say, "I'm just a software guy. Teachers need to have so much more ability than what I can offer." I can definitely see why people would take a 50% pay cut to get their teaching credentials and enter the System though, especially when the rewards for success are so great, no matter how sporadically they may come.

    Miss Pereira, if by some twist of fate you're reading this, know that you've been the most influential teacher in my life--and you weren't even one of mine!


"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas