Year Awarded: 2016
College of Engineering & Computer Science
The ultimate goal of any educator should be to enable his/her students to achieve their potential, not only in a specific class, but in life in general. I attempt to attain this goal through four major techniques: providing a friendly classroom atmosphere, providing encouragement for all groups of students, adapting my courses via collecting data to identify the techniques that are most effective in helping students learn, and helping students transition to their post undergraduate experience.
By lecturing with a familiar tone of voice and chatting with students before and after class, I create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable asking questions, both in class and outside of class. Because of this, in a typical 75 minute lecture, I receive about 20 questions. Furthermore, my office door is always open, even if I don't have office hours. If students ask more questions, they learn more.
Currently, in my field, computer science, only 14% of students earning bachelor's degrees are women. As a father raising two daughters, it's critical in my eyes that they receive the same support in any field they choose to study as boys in their classes. To that end, I believe it's important for me to encourage capable women in Computer Science, providing them resources to ensure their success while showing them how much fun the field is. To date, my most tangible step in encouraging women in Computer Science has been creating a women's programming team at UCF. In the last four years, we've worked with 21 women, while only one woman participated on the programming team in the ten years prior to that.
No matter how well one prepares, not all ideas work equally well in the classroom. In order to best serve students, I adapt lesson plans based on both formal study and informal feedback. I try at least one new technique every semester and quantitatively measure its effectiveness. In addition, I frequently talk to students and use more immediate feedback (a low quiz grade, students' general confusion) to adjust what and how I teach during a class itself or the following class meeting. In searching for truly novel ideas, I try to poll colleagues at other institutions and incorporate ideas as I see fit within the structure of my classes.
Part of an educator's job is helping students transition to the next stage of their life. I believe that helping students discover their best potential fit, whether it be graduate school or a job, can have more value than content we teach them. I enjoy spending time with students to help them figure out what their passion is and what graduate school or company might be the best fit for their personality and technical strengths. Connecting students directly with recruiters or faculty may help students seize opportunities they’ll love.