Saturday Teacher Feature: John

Today we'll hear from John, a friend from church who sings and serves there in addition to raising money for a local food pantry and leading a Boy Scout troop.  He works full-time for the government.  Oh, and he's also a teacher . . .

What do you teach, and how long have you been teaching it?

I've been teaching graduate-level engineering courses since 1998.  This year I'm teaching two new courses: one is a high school tutorial in geometry, and another is an undergraduate engineering course.

Who or what inspired you to teach?

After I got my seecond Master's degree, the faculty at my university just kind of looked and me and said, "Do you want to teach?"  My wife encouraged me, I  took a dive, and it was fun!

What's the toughest thing about teaching?

For me, it's being hard on the students -- requiring them to be disciplined.  They'll come up to me and say, "Oh, I lost my homework," or, "I did the wrong homework."  There's always an excuse, and I have to look for a pattern and eventually put my foot down.

When do you have the most fun while teaching?

The discussions in class, when the students start to engage with the subject.  The undergraduate course I'm teaching this semester is a software programming class, half-lecture, half-lab.  After the lecture, the students get out computers and start programming.  Last week, one young man couldn't figure out how to make the program work, and when I started helping him, it blossomed into a discussion involving other students.  That was really great.

What one thing do you try to teach all of your students -- the one thing that would enable you to say, "I was a good teacher"?

The ability to learn -- to learn how to learn.  If I can instill that in somebody, then I think I've done my job.  When they can go off and do a project on their own, come back and present it to the class, build on what I've told them -- I know they know how to learn.

Any parting words?

It's a very rewarding job, to help someone else learn something.  It's an honor.