ray trygstad:


preacher | webmaster
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It is really interesting to me that I am an educator as a major portion of my second career. I never saw myself as a teacher, although I was always successful at it when the opportunity presented itself. Now that I have been at it a while, I find it to be nearly impossible to believe that this is not what I was meant to do with the rest of my life.

I came to teaching as an officer in the U.S. Navy. Having served two tours of duty as a flight instructor, I knew I enjoyed teaching in this context. More importantly I completed my M.S. in Systems Management, and I so thoroughly enjoyed working on the degree, and on my subsequent Aviation Safety diploma from the Naval Postgraduate School, that I sincerely felt that academia held a great appeal to me. When the opportunity to teach Navy ROTC arose, I jumped in with both feet. As an Assistant Professor of Naval Science, I taught Naval Weapons Systems and Seapower and Maritime Affairs to college sophomore Midshipmen and  Officer Candidates. Naval Weapons Systems was a pretty straightforward applied science and engineering course, but Seapower and Maritime Affairs was a thinking course that attempted to teach concepts of Naval strategic thought through the study of naval history. I loved teaching the course, and the best part was that my students—30 in one class—actually got it! They were able to express, in essay form, a working grasp of the concepts of Naval strategic thought—something that frankly stymies a lot of knowledgeable and experienced Naval officers. It was, if you'll pardon the phrase, a real rush to be able to see the growth and maturation over the span of a semester, and it was so rewarding that I knew I had chosen correctly in this path for my life. Following my retirement from the Navy I was offered an opportunity to become an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Computer Science, and I jumped at it.

Like many college-level educators, I have not had a great deal of formal instruction in pedagogy. Some view this as a drawback, and, indeed, in the case of many professors it is. Many Ph.D. students who do solid research and present and defend their ideas adequately prove to be unable to rise to the task of constructing a rational curriculum and conveying material to students in a manner that inspires anything other than profound boredom, and most professors would benefit enormously from some formal pedagogical education. I have had the advantage of attending three Navy courses on instructional methods, one of them actually focused specifically on conducting college classes. I wish everyone who seriously wants to teach could have the same opportunities. I also wish that my current employer had a formal faculty development program, as I think these programs are of great benefit to both students and faculty.

I have been blessed with a loud voice that carries very well in a classroom (although it is a bit of a curse at other times); I am very good at organizing and presenting material in such a way as to be coherent and logical; and I am a solid researcher who can consistently and exhaustively search out resources relevant to the topic I am teaching about. I excel at explaining technical topics to non-technical folks which is a serious focus of my teaching today. I have had the opportunity to develop several curricula for both credit and non-credit certificates in areas that I have some particular expertise. I have an extensive list of my courses on this site.

I believe that most adult learners (the bulk of my students now) learn much better if they are provided with a copy of the class notes that the instructor lectures from. For most professors this is a level of organization they are not able to achieve, but to me it is worth every bit off the effort I put into it. I also am a strong believer in learning objectives and assignment rubrics that spell out very clearly what knowledge and demonstrated level of performance is expected from each student. I make every attempt to provide my students with a broad range of resources so that should they choose, they can go into any given topic in a great deal more detail than I am able to cover in class.

It is still a great feeling to know that I can convey my knowledge to others, and to do so in such a way that they actually learn to such an extent that it is very visible to both me and the student. When this happens I know I am in the right job, just as I knew I was in the right job aboard ship in the Navy. My primary job title is not that of an educator but it is the core of what I do. I may do other things in the future, but I am certain that teaching will always be a part of my life.

Copyright 2001 Ray Trygstad, Naperville, Illinois
Email: trygstad@trygstad.org
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