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CCN Focus: Lorenzo Clarke from Gwinnett Technical College

As a part of the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) featured blogs, we would like to introduce to you some of our professors and instructors in the Convergence College Network (CCN) community. The CCN is a select cohort of community colleges and universities from across the country that connects IT educators with a wealth of resources to enhance their programs. In this week’s Q&A blog, we’re featuring Lorenzo Clarke, program director of the Cisco Networking Academy Program at Gwinnett Technical College (GTC) in Lawrenceville, GA. Please also view the video below of Lorenzo explaining GTC’s Cisco Networking Academy Program.

What do you teach?
I am a Cisco Networking Academy Routing & Switching Subject Matter Expert teaching Computer Networking/Internetworking.

How long have you been a teacher?
I have been an instructor teaching for over 26 years. I started as a TA (Teaching Assistant) at the State University of New York – Binghamton in 1990. I also taught Basic Computers for a year at the City University of New York in Staten Island between 1997 and 1998. I started teaching as an adjunct at Gwinnett Technical College in 1998. Three years later, in 2000, I was hired full time as Computer Science Instructor teaching CompTIA A+ and Network+ classes. In 2001, I was promoted to Program Director and tasked with starting and leading the Cisco Networking Academy Program at GTC, teaching Cisco CCNA, and CCNP classes.

Did you have a job in industry before you became a teacher?
I started my career in the industry after graduate school in 1991 as a Production Supervisor in charge of the computerized manufacturing process at Cookson Pigment/DuPont in Newark, NJ. Between 1993 and 1997, I worked in New York City as a Computer Systems Engineer and later as an IT Manager.

What sparked your interest in teaching?
The love of teaching has been there all my life. Both of my parents were teachers until they retired.

What is the secret to successfully teaching IT to students?
There are several different types of learners. I believe the secret of being a successful IT instructor is utilizing what I call the “say, see, do” method. Students are first introduced to the content by way of lecture and discussion. Next, they must be given an opportunity to see how to do what was discussed via in-class demo. Finally, students should be allowed to confirm what they have learned by actually doing it themselves. The “say, see, do” method appeals to almost all the different types of IT student learners.

What’s the biggest challenge teaching IT?
The constant changes in the IT industry is among the biggest challenges in teaching IT. Unlike math, English, and most of the liberal arts, one needs to always stay abreast of the changes in technology. However, our strategic partnerships with organizations, like the Cisco Networking Academy, CompTIA, and Microsoft Academy ensures we are always teaching to the latest industry certifications. More importantly, our affiliation with the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) and the Convergence College Network (CCN) enable instructors to obtain IT training and professional development at minimum or no cost. CCN also provides a medium to share best practices with other instructors from around the country.

Do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why?
I particularly like teaching routing, switching and internetworking classes because they are the foundation and perquisites of most advanced IT technologies like security, wireless, and voice.

What is the best thing about being a teacher?
The best thing about being an IT instructor is having a direct impact on our student’s career and their livelihood. I am humbled by the dozens of my students who without previous IT experience are now making six figure salaries within a few years of completion of my program.

What advice would you give an IT student about to graduate and enter the workforce?
My advice to IT students is to pick a career in an area you wouldn’t mind working for free. Then get and maintain industry certification to future-proof your career.

IT is always changing – how do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT?
The IT industry is constantly changing. I keep up with the ongoing evolution in the field by maintaining memberships in organizations like IEEE, AITP, and TAG (Technology Association of Georgia).

How do you see the IT landscape changing in the next 5 years?
I see the IT landscape changing drastically in the next few years towards a more integrated architectural model with a cloud based virtual interface. Bye-bye command line.

Is there anything else we should know but didn’t ask about?
I am a Christian and was born in Liberia, West Africa. I sing bass in St. Edward’s Episcopal Church choir.

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