Interview with Champlain Adjunct Professor Kevin Eaton

Our students here at the Leahy Center work hard in their field and do amazing things. We decided to follow up with Kevin Eaton, who now teaches at Champlain College as an Adjunct Professor, on his experiences.

Editor: We’re here with Champlain graduate Kevin Eaton. How are you today? Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Eaton: Hey, I’m doing alright, thanks for asking! Yeah, I graduated from Champlain last year, right now I’m working as an Associate Software Engineer at DealerPolicy down in Williston, VT, but I’m also teaching classes here as an Adjunct Professor.

Tell me a bit about that. How are your experiences teaching here at Champlain?

Yeah, so far I’ve been able to teach one course, a one-credit course on React, which is a front-end framework to build web applications. Honestly, it was a great experience. Since it was a one-credit course, I didn’t have the biggest class in the world, only about five or six students. Because of that, I got to work closely with each of them. I was able to answer all the questions they had, which was awesome.

One of the cool things about teaching a one-credit course was that it was full of people that wanted to be there. They’re going out of their way to take that course. A lot of them were very self-motivated, I didn’t really have to speak with any of them about not handing in assignments. It was a very fast-paced, exciting environment to be in.

How long have you thought about teaching? Has it always been a part of your plan going forwards through your work at the Leahy Center?

My idea of teaching started way back in High School. I was a basketball coach for a little bit, where I helped some of the younger kids learn how to play. I didn’t really realize that I wanted to become a professor until I became a supervisor at the Leahy Center. I realized my favorite aspect of that job wasn’t so much all the additional roles that thrown on top of it. It was working with the interns to try and make sure they get the best experience out of the Leahy Center, and that they learn the most up-to-date information possible about programming and the fields they want to go into. I got to help them realize “Hmm, maybe web application development isn’t for me,” or “Maybe I want to go more into cybersecurity than programming.”

All of that stuff is what a professor helps you understand. I had a few game students in my class. Programming in React is much different than programming in Unity or something like that. It was a much different experience for them. I think they got a lot out of it, and it really helped reinforce their visions for their future plans.

What were some of your responsibilities at the Leahy Center while you were working there? Tell us a bit about the environment and your experiences.

So, I spent just about four years at the Leahy Center, and I wore a lot of different hats during that time. I started out as an intern, working my way up, slowly gaining more responsibility as I went. When I first started, it was a lot of just writing code for various projects, like the seating chart, inventory, and all of the other websites that needed to be managed. Slowly as the years went by, my responsibilities escalated. I took on a group of interns, working on seating chart. Then I became supervisor of the programming team, which brought with it more decisions that needed to be made. I had to handle things like infrastructure and deployment, things that wouldn’t be left to interns.

You talked about how your experience as a supervisor helped fuel your interest in teaching. How have some of the more technical skills you picked up and honed at the Leahy Center worked into your position now?

The Leahy Center gave me a lot of space to grow as a software engineer. Once I was running the team myself, I was able to make more decisions that kept us up to date with the latest practices. Part of that was switching to a React framework instead of using PHP, which kept me up to date and helped me experiment with React. Ultimately, that ended up helping me land my current job, as well as giving me a unique opportunity to teach it to other students. It was the doorway I needed to get a foothold into the industry. From maintaining applications and Trello boards to simply checking in on Slack messages, it seems mundane but these are all the things that make you successful.

What would you say to somebody currently at the Leahy Center that’s looking to go down the same path that you are now?

I would say to keep experimenting. Just because its been done one way in the past doesn’t mean you don’t work to implement a better way. It may seem that however things are when you get there is the way it has always been, but it probably hasn’t. The truth is, someone came along and said “There’s a better way to do this, and we’re gonna do it this way instead.” That’s what I did, and that’s what I hope that every team at the Leahy Center does. I hope they’re as innovative as possible and try and find the best solution for the problems that they’re facing.

Thanks for talking with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would say being a professor is definitely a lot harder than sometimes students give the professors credit for. I do have a full-time job on top of being an adjunct, so it made it a bit harder to make lesson plans and grade, but it is a great undertaking that these professors going through each semester try and keep up to date with the latest information and material. I’d like to just take my hat off for the professors that do this day in and day out, it’s really impressive what they do.

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