The journey from student to teacher assistant

We just completed the second week of Cohort 2 in Durham and the students are hacking away. We’ve come along way since we opened our doors in June and we thought we’d take a moment to highlight members of our team. Meet Amy Gori and Chet Corey, they were students of Cohort 1 and decided to give back by joining Cohort 2 as Teachers Assistants.

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Amy Gori graduated from our Front-End Engineering course in Cohort 1 and is serving the role of Teachers Assistant in cohort 2. She’s giving her first lecture next week on HTML & CSS! Amy answered some questions about her experience at The Iron Yard powered by Smashing Boxes in Durham:

What piqued your interest in programming?

I’ve tinkered with code for a long time, but I really started to think I might be able to do this professionally when I took an Intro to Javascript class from Girl Develop It last winter. That surprised me by being a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

What did you do before coming to TIY?

Most recently, I had been a full-time parent for five years. Before that, I was working in undergraduate education, and I have a graduate degree in English.

Why did you choose to take the class you took with TIY?

I took the Front End class because I wanted to learn Javascript. I had some experience with HTML and CSS and knew the basics, but I wanted to learn how to use APIs and build dynamic web applications.

What was your experience like as a student?

Intense. Very intense. I became accustomed to a lot of failure, and I eventually learned to use each one of those failures as a stepping stone to greater understanding. Resisting being discouraged by that process was something I had to work at. I think the most important turning point for me was the realization that thinking like a programmer required me to make a paradigm shift. When I let go of wanting things to make sense according to familiar standards, it felt like things got a little easier. The process of building that new frame of reference — basic programming concepts, a new vocabulary, a new approach to problem-solving — that was the biggest leap I made.

Why did you decide to be a TA?

We had two truly awesome women TAs for Cohort 1, and so I’m just doing my part to keep that momentum going for women in tech! And, beyond that, I am by nature someone who wants everyone else to do well, and I like being able to help other people. Being a teaching assistant is a win-win situation for me, because it gives me a chance reinforce what I have recently learned by sharing it with someone else. As a graduation gift, my front-end instructor gave everyone in her class a rubber duck. This is, I have learned, a thing in the world of programming: the rubber duck is a little friend to whom you can explain particularly vexing problems you are trying to solve, or code you are trying to debug, or whatever. In the process of explaining something to the rubber duck, you often achieve clarity for yourself. And most of the time, talking to a human being is even better than talking to a rubber duck.

What are you looking forward to seeing with Cohort 2?

I’m looking forward to seeing what these folks will create with their new skills. Demo Day brought out the best in our cohort, and I’d love to see that happen again.

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Chet Corey is a Cohort 1 graduate of the Ruby on Rails course. While in class, Chet learned to shift the way he approached problems in order to gain programming skills. Through the process he learned a great deal and taught us about the student experience. See how he answered questions about his time with us, so far…

What piqued your interest in programming?

I was moving from career to career and searching for something to scratch my creativity and curiosity itch. Every job that I was at I found myself thinking about ways to make it run more efficiently. This would usually lead me to doing something on the computer to simplify everyone’s work. In my free time I was tinkering with small electronics the Arduino specifically. I remember being so satisfied when I programmed a stoplight with a pedestrian crossing button. When I found out about the Iron Yard I was taking online classes though UNC and was about to sign up for a semester of online classes through NCSU. That learning style was not working for me. I am a tinker and I learn by taking things apart. This leads me into a field of errors and without an instructor to guild me out I would be a very frustrated student.

Also I was a Math major in college and I missed the comradery of geeking out about something that others just don’t care about. Other than asking my fence out on our first date taking this class was the best decision of my life.

What did you do before coming to TIY?

I was a model for around four years after graduating college. That was not something that I would have ever guessed I would have done but it was an interesting few years. I naturally fell into the retail industry. I was the first Brand Ambassador for Tommy Bahama. From there I decided to try my hand at running my own store. I moved back down to NC to learn how to run a Fleet Feet Franchise. I was planning on opening a new Fleet Feet location when I realized that owning a store was not going to fill my need to learn tinker and geek out. In every stage of everyone of my careers I was playing on computers and I never thought that I could do that for a job I thought that I was too old I would have to go back to school for 4 years and then graduate school for another 2. This program has very literately changed my life.

Why did you choose to take the class you took with TIY?

The Iron Yard was the answer to everything I was looking for. It was face to face. It allowed me to meet and work with people that were already in the industry. It gave me a group that I could learn along with. The time and financial commitment was at a fourth of what most graduate programs and unlike many graduate programs they are they are motivated in helping you get placed in a job in the field after I graduate. You get to work on a final project that is a reflection of what it is like to work on a real project for a client.

In all it was a great reason.

What was your experience like as a student?

The program is not easy it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. But the harder you work the more satisfying it is when you finally understand. I would say that my major breakthrough moment was when we went to the Ruby for Good conference and I had others to reference how much I had learned. It is difficult to see you own growth when you are in a group growing with you but at the conference we meet professionals and we were contributing. That was a great moment.

Why did you decide to be a TA?

I was a TA for a few years in college and I loved explaining things to others. I really like helping and I was just in their place so I understand exactly what they are going through. Also being a TA allows me another view of the material and it feels like last time I was throwing tiles of understanding on the wall and now in am going over it with grout and filling in all of the cracks. Everyday there are ‘oh ya’ moments.

What are you looking forward to seeing with Cohort 2?

It is exciting seeing everyone hit his or her little victories here and there. I just look forward to seeing everyone succeed and I look forward to possibly working with some of them on their final projects. It is fun every day.

Post by Jessica Mitsch, Campus Director 

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About theironyard

The Iron Yard exists to create exceptional growth and mentorship for people, their companies and their ideas through code education and startup accelerators.