Teacher, web developer, and tea enthusiast.
I love learning about and practicing creativity and sharing what I learn through teaching, writing, and other projects. I’m the co-founder of Sandcastle, a web and game development studio. I’m also co-founder and instructor at Code Convoy and a mentor in the frontend web development course at Bloc. I like books, tea, painting, podcasts, chess, and mindfulness. My favorite word is “studio.”
Education is something I care about deeply. I’m grateful for and lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from a huge number of great teachers, not only teachers in school, but in my family, career, and friendships.
Growing up, whenever I started to have questions about a new curiosity, my parents would pull a book off their shelf on that exact topic. Looking back, I can see that I was following in the footsteps of their educational exploration, following paths that many have walked before, and making new discoveries on my own. In school, I admired my teachers—their enthusiasm, the way they introduced me to new ideas in inspiring and interesting ways, the way they dedicated themselves to the personal development and fulfillment of each student, and held us to high standards of thinking, expression, and personal responsibility.
Teaching is something I need to do in order to feel grounded—in 2015 I was working as a web developer and graphic designer, and although I enjoyed the work I was doing and the people I was working with, I had a sense that the work I was doing was missing something important. I have always been a teacher in some way, from teaching piano lessons, helping students at my college’s writing center, or mentoring younger students, but from 2013 - 2015 I wasn’t actively teaching. I realized that I’m happiest when I’m both teaching—helping other people develop and explore their personal insights and creative skills–and making things—practicing and applying my own creative skills.
I began looking for opportunities to start teaching in my daily work, and eventually found the opportunity to be a mentor at Bloc, an online technology bootcamp. I also organized Code Convoy, a small web development class in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I continue to work to grow these programs and promote education in any way that I can.
I believe the best education is deeply interdisciplinary, a lifelong practice, defined mainly by enthusiasm and curiosity, and that education is the “practice of freedom.” I have a deep love of learning and a love of learners, and I approach education as an end in itself.
“The best teacher in the world is somebody who loves what he or she does and just loves it in front of you.”
Study (verb) – based on Latin “studium”, meaning zeal or enthusiasm.
Programming is a seed that grew slowly in my interests for many years before exploding unexpectedly. When I was twelve, my dad taught me a bit of HTML. I didn’t do much more than that, but it planted the seed for web development in my future. I continued to have an interest in technology, played a lot of text based games, first on MS DOS and then online (which I only later realized was great training for the command line), and generally wondered about computers. And I grew up along with the internet, constantly using it as a portal to interact with and learn about the world.
But programming took a back seat to music after that. Playing the piano was so much fun that it took the majority of my focus for the next nine years. Of course, later I realized that music theory and music composition are incredibly similar to programming, and my love of the writing and studying the structure music is the same interest that later attracted me to programming—the skills I learned while studying music would be very helpful for programming.
In college, I took a web design class and decided I would try my hand at building a website. Ever since that class, my curiosity and drive to explore web development has grown deeper and deeper. I’ve always loved the web for it’s openness, it’s quirkiness, and it’s dazzling vastness, and I love to contribute my own voice and ideas to its collection of human culture.
Programming brings together my love of music, words, chess, math, and education. It’s challenging, creative, and deeply rewarding. I didn’t expect my educational journey through the fine arts and humanities to lead me to a seemingly technical subject like programming, but it’s become an essential way for me to explore and connect all of my interests.
I never knew you could love a beverage until I met Alex. In 2010, she would make tea while we worked on homework, and just like programming, that planted a seed that would quickly grow into a wild enthusiasm.
On January 5th, 2011, I spend my first day studying abroad in Liverpool. Due to my jet lag, I woke up around 3:30 AM, and I was starving. I had no food, so I wandered down the security room by the entrance to my campus, and I asked the security guards, Geoff and Malcolm, if they knew of any places nearby that were open where I could find breakfast or anything edible.
Of course, nothing was open, but they had me come in and they made me tea and gave me some biscuits. Maybe it was my need for sustenance, or maybe it was my pre-existing dedication to embracing all things British, or maybe it was some kind of symbol to do with survival and care across cultures, but I’ll never forget that cup of tea. At that moment, my curiosity and desire to learn more about tea grew even more.
Four years later, on February 1st, 2015, my flight out of San Francisco was cancelled. I used my extra time in the city to go to Samovar, the famous Bay Area tea house. I already loved tea, but when I drank the gyokuro tea at Samovar, a whole world of tea I didn’t know existed opened up. Before Samovar, after Samovar.
“Strangely enough humanity has so far met in the teacup.”
—Okakura Kakuzo, the Book of Tea
Paint, ink, and graphite
I paint and draw. I’m not sure I can say much about this except that one time my teacher told me that once I finished his course in college I had a duty to continue to paint and draw. It’s a duty I can’t help but fulfill. It goes like this:
- Look at something.
- Record your perceptions.
Teacher: Are you thinking about making art?
Teacher: Don’t. Art just happens.
The key thread that has tied together all of my various interests and projects has been the desire to understand and practice creativity. What is creativity? How does it work? How can we get better at it?
It started in high school, when I needed to write a song for a school assignment. It was painful. It had to be about Romeo and Juliet. I struggled. Then my teacher decided it would be a good idea to play the recorded song during our final exam. Mortifying.
But, it planted another curiosity. How do people do this? Why is it so hard? What are the challenges and skills involved in writing a song, in creating anything?
I started to read, bolstered by my parents’ library. I picked up a lot of advice and tricks of the trade, reading books about the “creative process”, advice from writers, artists, musicians, anyone who had any kind of creative practice. I started to pick up on themes that were found across all creative disciplines. I would read about how to write novels, and translate those tips and perspectives into writing music. I was a sponge and a translator, studying the skills of creativity that are universal to every creative field.
But I still struggled to actually put the advice into practice. I could see the truth in the words, but doing it was another thing entirely. Ever since then, I’ve been practicing, learning bit by bit, exercising my creative muscles. It hasn’t become any less challenging, but the challenge is the fun part.
I believe that everyone is creative. I believe that creativity can be learned and taught. I believe that it’s a myth that some people are born creative and some people are not, and that creativity is an innate talent that cannot be taught, learned, or improved. I believe that you can practice creative skills and apply them to anything from cooking to coding. In my own work and in my teaching, I’m committed to uncovering and practicing the wisdom and skills of creativity and helping others learn and practice them as well.