The Alan J. Perlis SCS Student Teaching Award
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
(412)268-8525 . (412)268-5576 (fax)

Teaching and Commmunity-Building

Brandon J. Bohrer
2017 Graduate Student Teaching Award

Two things have always made this school special to me: the immense hard work our students put in and the unbreak able community bonds forged in such a demanding environment.

Nobody could teach here without noticing the hard work, but if there is one thing I've done right as a teacher it has been to recognize the role of community-building in creating a successful classroom. Students put in their best work when they respect you as a community leader. There are many ways to earn that respect: working equally hard yourself, showing sympathy for the challenges students face, and making good use of your students' time, to name a few.

But to truly be a community leader, you must foster the growth of the community itself. Let students work together when appropriate. Make office hours a space where students get help not just from you, but each other. And, importantly, make sure that no matter how hard you push your students, you still give them time to eat, sleep, and socialize. Pushing yourself to your full potential as a student is rightfully a badge of honor, but pushing yourself even further to the point of sickness should not be.

As a member of our community, do not be afraid to let your own personality show in the classroom. When students see you as a real person, they will connect to your course on a personal level. I've seen students groan when they thought their professors' senses of humor were from the wrong century. Don't take them too seriously. You will be much more memorable if you act like yourself, and when they remember the bad jokes, they will remember the material in the process.

For those of you reading this who are graduating, I hope you have had the same experience. CMU is rarely easy. But that is what makes our time here so memorable: not only the challenges we overcome, but the amazing people who help us get there.


Return to: SCS Student Awards