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Students in computer science classes come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but Andrew Myers finds ways to appeal to everyone. "I try to include something I would have found fascinating as a student," he says. "I also try to give students the flexibility to exercise their own creativity and judgment. One of the things that distinguishes great engineers is their engineering judgment—but it's something you only learn by doing."
Myers never repeats his lectures; rewriting them each year. "That keeps it fresh," he says. "And it forces me to think how to show students that the material is important."
Myers teaches students about the latest technology, but he also makes sure they learn the basics. "There are so many more software libraries that can be used to put together great-looking applications," says Myers. "We still need to teach the fundamentals, while taking advantage of and adapting to new technologies."
Juggling all the different parts of a course can be challenging, says Myers, especially when there's a project component that requires delivering software to students in time. "Grading software projects well is very time-consuming, but the feedback is absolutely critical for students," he says. "Students don't always realize that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, and I have been fortunate to have amazing course staff to work with: dedicated, bright, full of ideas, and great teachers in their own right."
Students in Myers' classes have to work hard, but most don't seem to mind too much. "Walking into class and discovering two students asleep in the front row after a long night of hacking was pretty funny," he says. "One of them is a graduate student with me now, so I guess it wasn't so bad for them."
If a student is struggling, Myers will work through problems with them during office hours. "Often students have conceptual gaps that are easy to get past one-on-one," he says. "In general, I think students should take advantage of office hours even more, and earlier rather than later."
Even if students don't appreciate the workload while they're here, they often come to later. "One real thrill is hearing from students a few years later that they learned important things in my course, or that it changed their direction," Myers says.