Instructor Q&A: Marty Wartenberg
Q. Why did you decide to become an instructor?
A. I actually became an instructor by accident. One of our Engineering instructors became seriously ill and couldn't teach an advanced control systems course. The then Director of Engineering programs and a friend of mine, Harute Barsamian, asked me to step in and teach the course with about one week's notice. With only one week to prepare, and no notes or materials available, I thought to myself “how hard could it be to teach an engineering course?” I committed to teach this one course every Tuesday evening from 6:00-10:00 p.m. I quickly realized that I took on more than I could handle. My solution was to develop each week's curriculum as we went along, and managed to stay one week ahead of the class. I covered the basic theory from the text book and then put the students to work designing control systems based on what we just covered. It worked out very well, as the students were learning much more from doing the problems together than listening to my lecture. I took on the role as a facilitator/coach working with each team rather than as the up-in-the-front teacher.
Q. What's unique about your teaching style?
A. What is unique, I think is that I give
the students the opportunity to learn by doing and working with each other, just as they have to in the real world. I work very hard to convert boring and difficult topics into subjects that are interesting, entertaining and relevant. I follow the medical school teaching model which is:
- I will tell you what I'm going to tell you.
- We discuss what I just presented. Challenge, argue, explain until everyone gets it.
- The students work on what we discussed.
- The students come back and teach the rest of us the specific subject under discussion.
Q. What's your favorite lesson to teach and why?
A. My favorite lessons are the leadership aspects of project management and the impact of various cultures on the leadership and team building for successful project teams. Most of the project management topics can easily be learned from books, but the actual teaching of and explaining how to both lead and manage successful cross-
functional, cross-cultural teams is a real challenge and is best done face to face with lots of examples, role plays and actual cases.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?
A. The most rewarding thing that I can hear at the end of the class is the students telling me that they learned more from each other than from the instructor. I especially enjoy watching relatively inexperienced people come through our program and at the end be able to actually accomplish real work and demonstrate that with a high degree of professionalism.