Five things we learned from a veteran instructor at The Iron Yard

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times – our instructors are amazing. They are the lifeblood of our student experience, and the mentors for each cohort of students who walk through our doors.

At The Iron Yard, we firmly believe that we are only as strong as our instructors, which is why we’re proud to work alongside passionate, driven individuals who all truly believe tech education has the power to change lives and empower communities around the world.

SwitchUp recently caught up with Jesse Wolgamott, the Director of Back-End Engineering and one of our veteran instructors in Houston. He has taught seven cohorts of students and exemplifies the “educator–industry expert–mentor” combination we look for in our instructors.

You can read the full SwitchUp post here. Below is an excerpt from Jesse’s interview:

It only took a few questions for us to realize how passionate [Jesse] is not only about his job but about the students he teaches. Here’s what else we learned from talking to Jesse:

Teaching is both emotional and rewarding

“Being an instructor is a very emotional job; it’s both my favorite and least favorite part. Students tend to be worried if they’ve made the right choice, worried if they can do this, worried if they are smart enough to learn how to code. (SPOILER ALERT: they are). So I tend to take that emotional baggage onto my shoulders and we go through the process together. That emotional investment comes through when they graduate – you meet their family and everybody cries happy tears.

I know that I played a small part in the student taking their life in an entirely new trajectory. Years later, when the students are on their second and third jobs, I’m filled with a pride and sense of accomplishment that I never achieved building software systems for businesses.”

For coding beginners, ignorance isn’t bliss

“Beginners tend to ignore both error messages and ignore documentation. Both are essential to figuring things out on your own. When something breaks, read the error message and try to figure out what the computer is telling you. Then, walk back your changes until something works — the thing that you did between when it works and when it doesn’t, that’s the problem.

So, take small steps and celebrate tiny wins. Set up checkpoints in your process where you make sure things are still working (this is an underused lifehack) and experience the “YEAH!” when it works. Those “YEAH!” moments will accumulate over time and make the “BOO” moments less effective.”

Teaching what students NEED to know is crucial

“I tell new instructors, ‘Don’t try to teach what is interesting to YOU right now, teach what junior developers need to know.’ You don’t need to teach everything you’ve learned in approximately a decade or more of being a developer, you need to teach them how to think logically, how to debug errors and how to approach problems scientifically while using code to solve problems. You need to give students a start, a framework and guidance — they do the rest.”

Want to meet more of our instructors? Let us introduce you to Luke, Kelly and Sam!

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