From Bytes to Lessons: My Emergence as a Computer Science Teacher

There exists a truism suggesting that our mission, our purpose, lies dormant within us, merely awaiting our discovery. I am inclined to believe that I have unearthed mine. That said, one can never claim with certainty to know where life’s unpredictable currents may ferry, upend, or drift us. Today, I won’t venture into speculations about the future – rather, I’ll unravel the tapestry of my journey that led me to the venerable vocation of teaching. The genesis of this voyage can be traced back to the hallowed halls of elementary school, where we were tasked with answering a question that strikes a universal chord – what do I aspire to be when I blossom into adulthood?

As I navigated the winding path of adolescence, my responses to the aforementioned timeless query (a frequent refrain posed to children) spanned a diverse spectrum. Certain answers were particularly compelling, conspicuously defying the conventional expectations.

In the third grade, we were given a delightful assignment to artistically depict aspects of our identities on a canvas of drawing paper using the vibrant palette of crayons. Elements such as the hue of our eyes and hair, our stature, weight, pastimes, cherished food and beverages, along with other similar individualistic characteristics. Additionally, we were asked to envisage and articulate our professional aspirations. My classmates opted for the tried-and-true professions: police officer, physician, firefighter, hairstylist, veterinarian, and so forth. However, as previously hinted – my professional foresight, my grand vision, was an unorthodox choice for a nine-year-old child.

I wanna be the Mayor of the Municipality of Zagorje ob Savi.

Indeed, your eyes do not deceive you. I etched these words with bold strokes. You may behold my manifesto in the image below. My heart swelled with pride over this lofty aspiration. My classmates were taken aback by the unusual career goal. Even more astonished was my teacher, so much so that this became the headline news during the parent-teacher conference my mother attended. My mother, however, remained nonplussed – it was quintessentially characteristic of me to harbour grand visions and cultivate a fertile landscape of fantasies. Now, as you peruse this narrative, you are already privy to the fact that my journey charted a different course – but nothing is definitively beyond the realm of possibilities. 🙂 A touch of humour, if you will…

Everything about me – a poster I crafted during my third grade of primary school. Pay heed to the content, not the spelling errors. 🙂

I will become a mathematics teacher.

Throughout my growing years, my visions of my future self were quite diverse. Influenced by science fiction, I yearned to be an astronaut, a scientist creating explosive compounds in the laboratory, a robot manufacturer, and many other roles related to technology and scientific work. In the concluding year of primary school (which was the eighth grade back then), our class teacher (a mathematics teacher) asked us to inscribe our desired profession on a small slip of paper. He said he would preserve these slips for us to compare our achieved profession with our childhood dreams on a future anniversary (next year will be the 15th anniversary). I wrote on the slip that I wanted to be a mathematics teacher.

However, upon entering high school, the desire to become a teacher quietly went into hibernation. Our new class teacher was also a mathematics teacher – the legendary Anton Leskovšek. His persona, steadfastness, vivacious teaching style, and open approach to problem-solving within the classroom rekindled the aspiration I had written on the slip in eighth grade. It’s true that my high school teachers (or professors) dissuaded me from entering the field of education, arguing that the role and image of a teacher were no longer as they once were, when teachers (alongside the priest and lawyer) were considered the primary figures in the village. Despite being a diligent, conformist, and (almost overly) obedient student, I did not heed their advice when applying for university.

Professor of Mathematics and…

In the concluding year of high school, the time came to visit the desired study program at the chosen faculty – it was time for Information Days. I decided to visit two faculties: the Faculty of Education (PeF) and the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics (FMF). At the PeF, there were simultaneous presentations of several university courses related to mathematics, including: professor of mathematics and physics, professor of mathematics and engineering, and professor of mathematics and computer science. At the FMF, I only attended the presentation of the university mathematics course.

After Information Days, I had to decide between PeF and FMF. Numerous people warned me that I wasn’t cut out for FMF and that I would struggle there. I heeded their advice and decided to choose one of the mathematics courses offered by PeF. But what should I choose? Mathematics and Engineering? Ahm, perhaps not. I was fond of technology, but I was one of those students who, due to clumsiness, broke even the last saw blade in the electric saw – which was the official name for the machine with an extremely thin saw blade that always broke in my hands. 🙂 Thus, technology was off the table. Then I had to decide between physics and computer science. I pondered over where I saw myself in the future and what would better satisfy my desire for “exploring and creating something modern and technologically advanced”. I opted for computer science, enrolling in the “Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science” course.

I concede. Having enrolled in the Faculty of Education, I anticipated the focal point to be pedagogy. However, a rude awakening awaited me on the 1st of October: analysis, algebra, discrete structures, physics, an introduction to computer science, and a computer science practicum. Not a hint of pedagogy in sight, only the foundational knowledge of mathematics and computer science. The initial month was a maelstrom. I faced an absolute debacle in the sphere of mathematics – unsurprisingly, considering that the level of mathematics was 2-3 times higher than high school mathematics. Computer science was no better – I had never ventured into serious programming, never heard of logic circuits and their operators. Diligence and assiduous work steered me through the tumultuous first month of freshman year, setting my academic journey on a smooth trajectory. However, a transformation awaited me in the first year itself. A professor and a professoress, who taught the core computer science subjects, instilled such a passion for computer science in me (particularly programming), that I would have readily endorsed a petition to rename the course “Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics”. I had enrolled in the faculty for mathematics, yet computer science usurped mathematics in my interests. Mathematics still held its charm, but the abstract segment of mathematics did not captivate me as much as web development, programming, app and game development did. During my internship, I discovered a sense of fulfillment in the role of a teacher and envisioned it as a profession that would kindle my joy.

Doctor of Computer Science and Informatics and a Computer Science Teacher

I concluded my studies 13 months ahead of schedule – graduating a month before the conclusion of the 4th year without resorting to an absentee status. Consequently, an opportunity presented itself to pursue a doctorate. I decided to enroll in a doctoral program at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science (FRI). In December (concurrent with my doctoral studies), I temporarily filled in for a mathematics teacher at my high school. At this juncture, I was independently executing the duties of a teaching professional and reveling in it. I was entrusted with the responsibility of teaching all four grades – 138 students in total. The experience was gratifying, however, the escalating academic commitments prevented me from accepting subsequent teaching offers. My doctoral journey progressed smoothly and I successfully completed the third year, thereby fulfilling all (usual) academic obligations of the three years. The process of publishing a scientific contribution and submitting a doctoral dissertation, presentations before the committee, presentation before students etc. commenced. As the doctoral studies were an expensive pursuit and a significant challenge awaited me in the form of a dissertation defense, I began seeking employment.

I discovered an opening at the Trbovlje Technical and Vocational High School for a teacher (professor) of specialist modules in the field of computer science. I submitted an application and was selected for the position. The news of my selection filled me with indescribable joy, swiftly followed by a sense of responsibility. I was faced with the task of completing the dissertation defense process while concurrently teaching numerous computer science subjects. I felt a responsibility towards myself, my mentors, my colleagues, and the 101 male and 1 female students. I confess, I had envisioned myself teaching at a university. However, I harbour no regrets (for the time being) as I might have ended up teaching similar subjects as I currently do. I mentor students for their final projects. I lead and participate in multiple projects. I continue to research and publish scientific contributions. I register innovations, developed in collaboration with colleagues and students, for application.

And here I stand. Anchored in the academic halls of STPŠ Trbovlje, poised to embark on my fourth academic year in the role of an educator. My inquisitive spirit leads me on a journey through the labyrinth of pedagogical and didactic knowledge, while also delving into the expansive realm of computer science. Yet, my repertoire doesn’t stop there, as I have also worn the mayoral chain – reigning over a quaint town of 21 residents. Alas, these inhabitants have now embarked on their own odysseys towards fresh victories, but I eagerly await the arrival of new faces in the forthcoming school year. 🙂

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