My Inspirational Teacher: by Codeacademy co-founder Zach Sims
As part of our My Inspiration series we talk to Zach Sims, co-founder and CEO of Codeacademy, the leading online education company closing the skills gap by teaching computer programming.
Who was the teacher, or person, who really mattered in your life?
I had a teacher in high school named Karen Boyea who helped to inspire me inside and outside the classroom. She taught history and sparked my interest in politics, history and different ways of changing the world.
What did they say or do to make them so special?
The class I took with Mrs Boyea was one that involved lots of work and basically dominated the time I had in high school that year. Whereas most classes like that would have been a drag, I looked forward to reading for this history class because the materials were so engaging. But, more importantly, the discussion that followed was fascinating and motivational. We put a lot of work in but the discussion and learning that came out was almost more important. We didn’t just use a typical syllabus but also used materials from the news, magazines and elsewhere to develop fully fleshed-out opinions. Which were followed up by deep, in-depth discussions.
What was the moment you realised this person was influential to you?
I spent time that year doing a lot – volunteering for a few political campaigns, writing about politics with a few friends, focusing on this class above all others – and I realised that what I was learning and the engagement levels I had were so different than any class I had taken beforehand.
Would you have been successful without this person’s encouragement?
Mrs Boyea knew just the right way to push students to study and be successful – not merely to do well on an exam but to better themselves and their ability to reason. That’s something all teachers should do.
Did you stay in touch?
Who in the world today would you describe as inspirational?
I look at people who are making an effort to change the world both through politics, business or through non-profits. Recently, I’ve been very impressed with a non-profit I’m involved with called Libraries Without Borders. They provide literacy materials, along with tools like Codecademy, to refugee environments where people previously had no access to education. Changes like that are immediately apparent and can help us all make the world a better place.