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)
A Word of Thanks for The Herbert A. Simon Teaching Award
1. I Love Teaching. I love the students and their energy, their puzzlement when they almost (but don't quite) understand, and their delight when they do. I love teaching because it gives me a chance to learn new ideas and to discover something new in the old ones.
I try to teach well because of the terrible lows I get when I don't, and the highs I get when I do. The highs and lows of research are at least as impressive, though in a different way. I'm lucky to be both teacher and researcher: that way, if one isn't going well, there's still a chance the other will.
2. A Sincere Thank You. I am enormously grateful for this award, and owe a big thank you to the students who nominated me and wrote supporting letters, and the judges who put their time into choosing among competing candidates.
I am awed by the quality and dedication of my fellow teachers, and astonished that I am considered on a par with them. This semester I taught an undergraduate algorithms course, 451. I am thankful to my TAs who did the really hard work in the course. They did everything except the fun part – the lectures – which I selfishly did myself. These really great TAs are Elisabeth Crawford, Michelle Goodstein, Virginia Vassilevska, and Brent Bryan.
I want most especially to thank my son, Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Professor Avrim Blum, for supporting my desire to teach his 451 algorithms course...his way. I've taught algorithms before, and I could have taught this course my own way. It would have been easier for me, but different, and not nearly as exciting. This course this time was based entirely on Avrim's ideas, his text, his homeworks, his schedule, his quizzes, his exams,....
Thank you Avrim! It blows me away how much information you manage to convey: roughly twice what I put out doing it my way. I like very much what you do and how you do it.
3. A Personal Note for My Students: Ever wonder what sort of students your teachers were? Most of them as you likely know were at the very top of their class. Not me, though I truly wanted to be up there. Trouble is, I had no idea how to learn, and no idea how to think. How does one learn a multiplication table that refuses to stick in your brain? How does one remember a date or a name? (If anyone mentioned mnemonics to me that suggestion didn't stick. I had to come up with the idea independently.) Finally, and most importantly, how does one solve elegant tantalizing mathematical problems? How does one even go about getting a handle on solving new problems? I didn't know.
Everything I learned came to me...slowly:
Manuel Blum, 2007
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