About Teacher Spotlight: The concept of “students first” is at the heart of everything we are and do at CodeWizardsHQ. We know students learn best when they interact with a talented teacher. We conscientiously hand-select the very best coding teachers, ultimately hiring only the top 2% of applicants. Every month we go behind the scenes to tell you more about one of our amazing teachers. This month, we bring you, Nicholas Falcone!
Who/what inspired your career choice growing up?
My dad is in the IT field, he really encouraged me when going into college to think about double-majoring in computer science. Initially, my plan was to study Criminology and Spanish but then decided to give computer science a try as I entered my first year in college. Computer science ended up being much more demanding than my other major, as many computer science students and alumni will tell you. Then, I started finding ways to mix my Criminology major with my Computer Science major, and that really ignited my passion for being in the CS field. That’s manifested in the program in which I just enrolled at the University of New Haven: Investigations, specifically Digital Forensic Investigations. Overall, I didn’t really understand or have an interest in CS until just before college, but now looking back on it, I can’t imagine my professional career and education without it.
What has been the most rewarding part of working at CodeWizardsHQ?
I learn a lot from my students every day – they are very bright, and they have lots of questions. This challenges me to be a better instructor and a better computer scientist since I have to find very specific ways to explain certain complex concepts. It has certainly made me a better instructor, but more importantly, it has made my understanding of the subject matter much better every time I explain something in a new way. On a similar note, computer science is really an endless realm of tools to go in your personal “programming toolbox”; there is so much out there to learn in this field, and it’s impossible to learn it all. I oftentimes find that I’m learning new programming syntax or a new way to accomplish a specific task from my students based off of their experiences programming. And I take that with me in my toolbox so I can be a better instructor for the future.
What is your vision for the future of coding and kids?
Students who have experience coding early in their education, especially before college, will be put at an advantage heading into a higher education degree program or the workforce. I mentioned that computer science toolbox. The more tools you have to start – the better foundation you have – the easier it will be to build on that foundation. With today’s advances in computing and technology, a problem is starting to emerge: there isn’t enough time in college to teach everything about computer science and programming anymore! There is just so much out there. Having a solid foundation in coding will propel students through a program in this field in higher education, and allow them to take on more advanced challenges down the road. In that same vein, we tell our students at the start of their time with us at CodeWizards that programming isn’t just about syntax and the skill of coding. It also makes you a better problem solver, a better critical thinker. It forces you to examine your assumptions, think of possible causes and effects, and plan for improvement. These skills are becoming more noticeable and more sought-out in the workforce, so even if you don’t want to be a programmer, coding will teach you the skills necessary to be a marketable candidate for many different types of jobs. One saying that I’ve heard on numerous occasions is “kids are our future”, – the idea that educating our youth is the best way to care for the progression of society and I think that sets kids up for success specifically in the CS world, but also more generally in the professional world, will ultimately benefit society as a whole.
When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing (hobbies)?
Well, coding is a hobby for sure! I work on a lot of small projects on my own to enhance my skills but also because it’s fun to see what you can make happen. Outside of programming, I enjoy playing basketball, watching crime/police TV shows, and learning new world languages. I’ve become fluent in Spanish and currently teaching myself Russian! I’m also a licensed Emergency Medical Technician, so I enjoy being a part of my local emergency response/community group focused on public health.
If you could have one teacher super-power, what would it be?
Without a doubt, my teacher superpower would be to fix students’ indentation in their code all at once. As many of my students know, new programmers often have the correct idea about the concept of code, but often get slowed down by the indentation requirements (specifically in our intro classes in Python). I would like to ease their stress (and mine!) by, in a split second, fixing all their indentation errors so they have more time to focus on the important part of their code.
What do you think is the most important thing about working with a company that teaches coding to kids?
Keeping students engaged in class is by far the most important part of teaching coding to kids. At CodeWizards, all of our lessons are stories, you have an objective and a backstory, not just something to build for an hour, which I think makes all the difference. It allows students to be more creative, and take the project more in the direction they want to go, which in turn keeps them more motivated and invested in the class. We also use a teaching model that is really focused on interactivity, not just a “watch me type this piece of code and copy it” model. Students are able to think for themselves, understand the problem and try to come up with a solution, rather than just going through the motions of copying/generating syntax. The weekly lesson stories are the catalyst to promote problem-solving strategies, which will set them up for future success, and not just in programming!
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