I won one of the 2022 Weiss teaching awards. It is Cornell’s highest annual teaching award — the platinum trophy.
The platinum trophy is the last achievement unlockable in a PlayStation game. It represents game completion. There are no more awards after it. That’s a fair analogy for the Weiss award at Cornell. There are no more teaching awards left to win after it. Game over — time to roll the credits. And in the credits you thank the people who made it possible. So I want to thank some people:
- The 6,000 students I have taught in my decade-long career: You are my fan base and my constant critics. The duty I have to you as your teacher is what keeps me going every day.
- The TAs who have been on the front lines for me that entire time: Your dedicated service to the community is what makes instruction work at the scale we achieve in CS. You create the one-on-one human interaction; you help your peers to succeed. You give me the reality check I need when my expectations veer to the extreme.
- My teachers who taught me to teach — in chronological order, Ann Sobel, Robert Thomas (retired), Andrew Myers, and Fred B. Schneider: I was a handful. I’m glad you put up with me and did your best to mentor me as a teacher. Ann taught me the parts of CS that are still my core interests, and she got me my first teaching job. Rob gave me a model of a teacher who is artist, scholar, tour guide, and entertainer. Andrew exemplified passion, patience, and inspiration. Fred instilled discipline, efficiency, clarity, and relentless rigor; and, he brought me back to Cornell when my career was foundering elsewhere.
- The faculty at Cornell who have supported me, first as a PhD student, then later as a colleague: You’ve trusted me with a key piece of the education of our many majors, and given me the freedom to put my own stamp on what it means to have a CS degree from Cornell.
- Some of the nominators who I suspect were instrumental: David Gries, Eva Tardos, and Kathy Dimiduk.
- My family, especially my wife, my parents, and my godsons and their parents. All of those people are teachers in some way or another; some happen to do it professionally, too.
What should I do when the credits finish? I’m pondering that. Meanwhile, I have a class to go teach…