Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Favorite Student

Fred Wilson and me at #SOTC2012
Last week I was given the honor of attending the State of the City address. The mayor was announcing a new school for the fall. An Academy for Software Engineering. This has been in the works for a while and has a long way to go but the announcement was a major step. The project really got its start a couple of years ago. I'd been working hard for years prior trying to get the city to help me grow the program I developed at Stuyvesant, but until Fred got involved, there was no movement. Fred has to receive much of the credit for any good that we do as a result of this and I'd like to publicly thank him. If you don't follow Fred, you can read his post on the school here.

It was pretty neat to be on stage for the announcement, but those of you who know me know that I'm not a self promoter and these types of events aren't "me."

 What I found really special, were the emails and tweets I got from my former students over the next day or so. As a teacher, we'd like to think we are in some way a "force for good" in our student's lives and we rarely get to really see what impact we do or don't have. To hear from so many and such gracious comments brought tears to my eyes. Thanks guys.

I've been thinking a lot about my career as a teacher recently. I decided to leave industry over twenty years ago. As teachers, particularly teachers with technical backgrounds we leave a financially lucrative field to enter one with very few financial rewards. It's also a field very much under attack, particularly in recent years. The current line of thought seems to be that teachers are to blame for everything bad in education and government and private interests, everything good. As a senior teacher, I'm particularly worthless, at least according to what I've heard on the radio over the past year.

So, what do I get out of the deal?

Well, when I hear form my graduates, I know that I've made a difference. 

Also, the friendships I've developed over the years.
Stuy '84, '95, 2013, 2015 and families

A few weeks ago, we were catching up with a few of the Stuy '95 crew. We do it far too infrequently. They were students, they're now friends. I've had the privilege of seeing many young people grow to adulthood, get married, have children and in a small way I've been able to share in their lives. This is the upside of my career choice.

Maybe this is a result of being a computer science teacher who tries to keep a foot in the tech world. Maybe something else.

From the college student who stops by just to say hello to the graduate living across the country who drops a line to say how they're doing. That's the upside of the teaching profession.

Recently I thought it would be a good idea to organize the Stuy CS family. Collect email addresse and get a network going. I posted on facebook and sent out a few emails two days ago. So far, 240+ signups.

A while ago someone asked me who was my favorite student?

They're the ones that I'm still in touch with many years after they graduate.


  1. Congrats on building such an incredible program and here's to many more years of students who stay in touch!  

    What role will you play at the academy?

  2. Thanks - there are lots of things still up in the air with respect to the academy and Stuy. Among them is where I fit into the picture. Time will tell.

  3. Got it.  Good luck figuring it out.  Will look forward to reading your insights wherever you land.

  4. Hey Mr. Z!  Congratulations again.  It's really exciting to hear that you're having a hand in possibly changing the landscape of tech education in NYC; I can't think of anyone better to do this.

    BTW, the link you have for Fred Wilson's post seems to be the Stuy CS Alum sign-up sheet instead...

  5. Oops -- too much cutting an pasting URLs yesterday -- fixed.

  6. Congratulations on this achievement, Mike. Do you have any idea yet on how the curriculum will look, and what proportion of their time students will spend on non-computing topics?

  7. The curriculum isn't set-- the school hasn't even decided on a leader yet. I know how I would approach things, based on what I've put together at Stuyvesant,  but I don't know how much of a voice I'll have when push comes to shove.

  8. I remember seeing you soon after you'd started teaching and all I can say now is wow.