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 Renee Blackshear, Instructor at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Brownwood, TX.
What do you teach? I am an instructor for Computer Networking/Systems Administration & Cloud Computing.
How long have you been a teacher? I have been an instructor at TSTC since June 1, 2016.
Did you have a job in the industry prior to teaching? My first job out of college was with an educational software company. I started in Technical Support, offering assistance to end users on PC issues, as well as product support for the applications produced by Creative Education Institute (CEI). I moved from Technical Support into the IT department, serving as a both a product tester and systems designer. In the latter position, I was able to work with teams throughout the company to help integrate technology into their work day. This was a very important role for the company as I was able to find out all the things the end users needed to assist with efficiency, accountability, etc. Then, the IT department set out to build the desired infrastructure and train the end user on how to use it.
I moved from CEI to a bucket truck manufacturer to serve as the Marketing Manager and Webmaster. Here, my main goal was to help update the distributor network with online tools that would aide in increasing business across the globe. I have also done quite a bit of freelance work building and troubleshooting computers, developing websites, and custom coding various projects.
What sparked your interest in teaching? I like being there when the “light bulb” turns on. My first job out of college was with an educational software company whose products were centered on students with learning differences. Quite often I would get the opportunity to visit the labs and see the students learning. It is an amazing experience to have them look at you as if the greatest gift (knowledge) just landed in front of them. In IT, we get to experience this type of “WOW” moment frequently.
What is the secret to successfully teaching IT students? Make it personal and determine a method for relating the topic to the student. It’s important for the student to be able to relate more advanced topics to something with which they are truly comfortable. Once the comfort level is reached, the topic becomes more relative and clearer. All of my classes include hands-on labs, so the student benefits from lecture, additional topic notes, direct demonstration, then a confirmation of their newly developed competency.
What is the biggest challenge in teaching IT? Slowing down to get a firm handle on the basics of IT before jumping head-first into a massive project. The firm foundation must be in place to achieve success.
And do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why? I really do not have one favorite class, I like them all. I also enjoy demonstrating how everything works together to offer the best options for the end user.
What is the best thing about being a teacher? Having students thank you for your help and support.
What advice would you give an IT student that is about to graduate and enter the workforce? Never stop learning! Our responsibility as IT professionals is to continuously integrate technology in effort to provide support and efficiency. There will always be new ideas coming forward, evaluate and implement as appropriate.
How do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT? Follow my own advice!! Practice and refine your DevOps skills, continuously developing and integrating appropriate technological advancements to increase operational efficiency across the organization. It’s the IT mission!