[prog] Who were your best CompSci teachers?

Robert J. Hansen rjh at sixdemonbag.org
Sun Apr 6 09:51:00 EST 2003

Not sure where this belongs, so I'm throwing it here because this seems
most apropos for programming and related questions.

Who was your best, most formative, CompSci teacher, and why?

Mine was my CompSci prof.  In my first CS class, I'd already been
programming for several years and blew off the first programming
assignment.  I hammered something out that worked but was totally
inelegant, turned it in, got it back and was dismayed at my D.  What
made it all the worse was there were other students who couldn't do it,
and they were getting Cs.  When I asked Leon about it, he explained that
he was grading me more harshly because I knew better than to do that.

I took increasingly more care with future assignments.  And he still
found things to criticize, to correct, more stylistic issues, more notes
of "you really need to read such-and-such a chapter in Knuth".  By the
end of the course, I figured I was pulling a C-.  I went in with my
change-of-major form and explained to him that, given my C-, I wasn't
cut out for this major.  He looked up at me, shook his head no.  "A
grade reflects how well the student has learned and applied the material
that's been taught," Leon said.  "When you came in here, you thought you
knew everything and wrote lousy code.  Now you're not so sure and you're
writing better code.  That's worth an A."

Leon was the guy who taught me that you can always learn to write better
code, and elegance is a worthy goal.  And for the fact he was able to
subtly slip that into the head of an arrogant 18-year-old, he's the best
teacher I've had.

Robert J. Hansen <rjh at sixdemonbag.org>

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