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DCE Magazine

Instructor Q&A: Joe Burgess

UCI x Flatiron School Web Development Instructor

Winter 2020

“Teaching combines both the joy I get from being a part of the success of others with the problem solving required to explain something effectively.” Joe Burgess

Q. Why did you decide to become an instructor?

A. My first teaching job was in high school, teaching Photoshop to kids at a summer camp. Funnily enough, I took that job in high school because it was the highest paying job I could find, but after a few weeks I realized that I loved it. Teaching combines both the joy I get from being a part of the success of others with the problem solving required to explain something effectively. As an instructor at Flatiron School, I get the opportunity to witness when students start to understand something, and also when they receive life-changing job offers. It's a very visceral feeling of impact.

Q. What's your favorite lesson to teach and why?

A. I believe Flatiron School's style is an extension of my personal teaching style. At Flatiron School, we believe the following are essential keys to successful teaching: teacher to student relationships matter, knowledge requires context, and students must learn to love the topic.

First, and I believe most importantly, is that teacher-student relationships matter. Understanding each person and their unique learning style allows our teachers to tailor our message. Whether it's in a lecture, a 1:1, or while giving feedback on an assessment, we want every message our teachers are conveying to be fully understood by our students. Relationships are how we make sure that happens.

Second, for students to ascend beyond information gathering to applied knowledge they must understand the context of what they are learning. We do this at Flatiron School through explanations of how tools and techniques fit into the history and ecosystem of the topic. Throughout their careers, our students will need all sorts of skills and techniques. By providing context, we help ease the transition from topics we taught into what students are actually learning and doing on the job.

Finally, we have to teach students how to love what they are learning. Whether it's programming or knitting, learning is hard. It can be so easy to devolve into negativity when learning. The only way to counteract that is by showing the joy in your teaching. Joy is infectious, and it's our job to spread joy as much as possible.

Q. What's unique about your teaching style?

A. How the internet works. We teach that lesson as students transition from the pure programming module, into writing software for the internet. It's my first opportunity to really reveal what's behind the curtain on a tool that every student uses all the time. Students are always shocked by the amount of physical and software infrastructure that goes into an experience that they use every day. Did you know sharks used to be a major problem for the internet? They were attracted to the electromagnetic fields around the undersea cables that connect the continents. The internet is incredible, and I love getting to share that with students every semester.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?

A. Just like baking a cake, the most rewarding experience is the outcome. Hearing success stories from former students is magical. Now that I've been teaching for a while, I have a number of students who are beyond their first job. I have alums who progressed from junior engineers to senior managers and directors of engineering teams.

This is equally true for the new Web Development program we are offering at UCI. We are thrilled to offer flexible course options that teach people the practical programming skills they need to accelerate their career – all while earning academic credit, and a Certificate from UCI. Getting the opportunity to have such a visceral impact on another person's life is the best thing in the world.