A professor with extensive knowledge and understanding in his or her chosen field is often held in high regard by peers. But without the ability to effectively and clearly communicate the subject material, even the most intelligent of professors can be of little use to his or her students. In this regard, Craig Champlin has a bit of an advantage. Champlin, in his second semester of teaching at Mines, has learned from prior industry experience how to effectively communicate new information to people with varying levels of experience.
Champlin, currently a graduate teaching fellow for the Computer Science department, spent many of his eighteen years in the software industry teaching professionals how to use various programs and software. His industry experience includes a few years of software development followed by a lot of time spent managing software developers, testers, and people in similar industry positions. Champlin is currently teaching in order to help fund his graduate research and expresses a desire to continue teaching and researching as a professor once he graduates.
His favorite aspects of his prior industry work was teaching others how to use the necessary software and “doing the really hard analysis,” which he says is not too different from a professor’s duty’s to “publish or perish” and teach, “so that’s what I want to be when I grow up.”
As Champlin has always known he wanted to be a teacher, he began observing his teachers’ styles of education back in high school. He discovered that the good teachers engaged their students and he does his best to integrate that knowledge into his own teaching style. “You don’t tell; you ask,” he said. He had the opportunity to confirm this knowledge and further develop this style throughout his time in management, noting that, “When I tell somebody something, they get a lot less of it than when I have them discover it for themselves.” This combination of observation and real-world practice led Champlin to the style he uses in the classroom today, which consists largely of lectures intermixed with a series of questions and examples.
Surprisingly, Champlin advises students to “get off the ‘A’ train and get on the ‘B’ train.” He explained that, “Unless you plan on going into academia or some… research job… you’re better served living life outside of school and [getting] a ‘B’ than you are to put the extra work in to get an ‘A’ and that’s [academic life] all you know.” He points out that in his time as a manager, he was more concerned with ensuring that the applicant’s side interests and personality matched up with the job as opposed to his or her grades. He does admit, though, that he made sure the applicant had passed school. He advises that engineers and Mines students to get out of their academically-competitive box and make sure that they focus on being “a complete person.”