Herbert A. Simon Award for Teaching Excellence
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
(412)268-8525 . (412)268-5576 (fax)

The Rewards of Teaching

Mahadev Satyanarayanan

Learning is a pleasure that has no equal. My commitment to an academic career stems from its potential for a lifetime of learning and intellectual renewal. I find that teaching is a form of learning for oneself, and thus a natural complement to research. Putting my thoughts together for a lecture forces me to revisit long-held assumptions and to ask, "Would I believe this if I were a student?" It guides me to consider a topic as it would appear to a bright and inquisitive mind, untainted by preconceived notions. This often leads me to a deeper understanding of what I am trying to teach, and on occasion to unexpected insights in research.

Research, writing, and teaching are all integral components of learning. Of these, teaching is the most rewarding in the immediacy of its feedback. To see a tightly-knit brow in class relax as understanding dawns is a prize that awaits every teacher. Suddenly, all the hours of preparation and all the frustrating attempts to integrate diverse pieces of information into a coherent whole become worthwhile.

The intellectual companionship offered by bright and eager students is one of the joys of an academic life. As their teacher, one is in a privileged position -- to be the first to open new doors and lead them to vistas of knowledge that they did not know existed. No matter how many times I have taught the same course, I remind myself that this is the first time for them. Every class, in its own distinct and unique way, has been a reward for me. I look forward to many, many more rich rewards from future classes.

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