It's amazing how life works when you make decisions based on love, passion, and a desire to give. It's been nearly four years since I decided to rekindle the passion I had for teaching when I was a young man in college. Sadly, back in the very early 1990's, a young Steve took a trip to an 11th grade math class and saw first hand what it looked like to teach high school. It sucked out all of the potential joy that I held for the profession.
I decided to focus all of my attention on my secondary interest of computers & software development. It served me well over the next 21 years of my life. I made a good living. It served as a tremendous creative outlet for me. It often sated my endless curiosity.
One thing that it never gave me was a sense of purpose. It never slaked my desire to make a true impact on people.
Writing code for travel content delivery, print procurement, healthcare revenue processes, and public library events was fun at times and gave me a sense of satisfaction when completed, but the high was quickly snuffed out.
Then I made the decision to teach at Nashville Software School, and the impact the people there have had on my life is impossible to truly decribe with the words I know. Being able to help people through one of their hardest journeys into a new career is truly an honor and a privilege that I never take for granted. I know how much these amazing people are counting on me to help them, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
I am eternally grateful for John Wark. His vision for starting the school, his integrity for providing oportunities for people who might not otherwise have had one, and his guidance when dealing with students and teammates all have had a tremendous impact on me.
I think fondly of the people who earnestly thanked me for helping them achieve a better life for themselves and their families. It makes me tear up every time I think about it. Their gratefulness is part of it, yes, but I am also filled with pride and respect for these people because they are the ones who sacrificed, and put in all of that effort. I simply provided a path, and a shoulder to lean on (sometimes cry on) when they got exhausted or lost along the way.
Over time, people who shared my passion joined the team and we made mistakes together, experimented with different strategies for teaching software development, and shared our passion for helping people. It was a wonderful in those first two years as we learned lessons every, single, day and were able to enhance the Learner Experience in significant ways very quickly. We were learning how to help people learn.
Such meta. Very learning.
All of my teammates here at NSS have been instrumental in helping me become a better teacher because of their insights, their styles, and their experiments.
- Joe Shepherd
- Brenda Long
- Zoe Ames
- Jisie David
- Nathan Gonzalez
As fellow senior instructors, they have all brought different strategies and ways of communicating our core concepts here. I've stolen bits and pieces from all of them over time, and I'm a vastly better coach that I would have been just doing this solo. I owe them all a large dose of gratitude.
There have been several people in my professional life who have made a profound impact on both how I do my job, and who I have become as a person.
- Louis Manning
- Denise Beall (née Fezza)
- Jeff Stansberry
- Digvijay Nikam
- Scot Clausing
- John Wark
- Hailey Mahan
- Joe Shepherd
- Zoe Ames
- Michelle Pauk
I am deeply grateful to all of these people for sharing their lives with me, and letting me share mine. You have all changed me in profound ways - sometimes small, sometimes large, but nonetheless profound.
Then came that fateful day in December of 2016 when I made a decision on who to hire as the 3rd junior instructor at Nashville Software School.
I decided to hire Meg Ducharme on as a junior instructor at the end of 2016, and had no idea what was to come. Here was a woman that I saw struggle heavily when she went through the course. She was often lost and frustrated. Why on Earth, you might ask, did I pick her as a candidate as a junior instructor?
- She never gave up.
- Almost daily, she had a list of handwritten questions that she would bring to my table and have me explain to her.
- She was endlessly curious. Even when frustrated and feeling like she didn't understand any of it, she stayed curious and engaged and wanted to know the answers.
- She had a growth mindset. She understood that with enough time, and patience, and the right strategy, that it would eventually make sense.
- She was highly empathetic, and I knew that would translate into connecting with students and enhance their experience. I had no idea at the time the magnitude of that effect.
What I didn't know is that she would eventually be someone that I would look to as a role model for how to connect with people at a deeper level. She became the Voice of the Student on the team, and has had a greater impact on the course than anyone else before her - including me.
She has become a transformational force for our organization. Her instincts for making a wonderful experience for our students are highly refined and nearly always on point. She can take her experience of being a student, and the experience of being on the Learning Team, and merge them together.
She has an amazing capacity for caring, giving, and providing feedback to people that is both supportive and focused. I have modeled my interactions with students after hers. I don't think I'll ever be able to match her natural talent for it.
She has become the standard by which all decisions on who to hire as a junior instructor after her are made.
Most of all, she has become my true friend. Those have been rare in my life.
Speaking of true friends, Meg is not the only former student that I hold in that regard. Helping people through their journey at NSS makes me connect with them in ways I never expected. I get to see them at their best, and their worst. I do my best to make them feel safe and supported by the entire learning team.
Alas, they all go down their own paths when they leave NSS, and those, more often than not, diverge from mine. If I could, I would find a way to meet with ALL OF THEM on a regular basis so I could hear more about how their journeys have continued to play out.
My students have taught me, and changed me, more than I ever have done for them.
I could list all of the students that have impacted me the greatest, but the list would be quite long and boring to read. I hope that all of you know how much you mean to me.