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)


Alexander J. Lockwood
2014 Undergraduate Student Teaching Award

Looking back on my three years at CMU, my time spent as a teaching assistant has been by far the most rewarding and worthwhile. Over the past few semesters, I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing students, many whom I now consider to be friends. I would especially like to thank Charlie Garrod for putting so much time and effort into his undergraduate classes and for being a great mentor to all of his TAs.

My teaching philosophy can be summarized into the following five points:

Be consistent. Grade assignments against a single rubric, create homework handouts using a single template, and write starter code according to a single coding style. Always speak on behalf of the entire course staff when making announcements (say "we," not "I"), and make important decisions together, not alone.

Be clear. Provide detailed instructions for everything you write and anticipate questions you think students might ask ahead of time. Obsessively revise assignments and exams until there is no room for misinterpretation.

Be friendly. Learn every student's name and Andrew ID. Friend them on Facebook and wave when you see them outside of class.

Be dedicated. Teach with intensity and passion–it should be obvious to students that you care about the course. Hold extra office hours every once in a while and stay overtime if students still have questions. Dedicated teachers inspire students; if students see that you are responsive and eager to help, they will become more dedicated themselves.

Become an expert. Continue to refine your understanding of the course material throughout the semester. Remember back to when you were a student in the class and create new ways of thinking about the concepts you were slow to understand. View TAing as a second chance to fill in the gaps of your own knowledge, and force yourself to become an expert in everything you teach.

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