Spotlight on IT's classroom instructors

3/1/2007 8:00:00 AM

A wealth of technical teaching talent lies within the ranks of the Information Technology Division. So, it's time to give some recognition to five IT employees, Randy Franklin, Patti Walsh, Lorenzo Trimble, Ed Hanley, and Rita Heuser, for the time and effort they put into teaching ongoing computer classes for Professional Development and Training each year, in addition to their normal job duties. Individually and as a group, they provide a great service to the University community.

Office, Excel, Access Patti Walsh began teaching five years ago in August 2002 when Professional Development and Training was still known as Process and Performance Planning.

At the time, she was teaching Microsoft Office 97 in the Central Services Building. Back then, Patti recalls, there was little standardization in computers and software at the University and many departments had a wide variety of operating systems and Office products in active use. "That made teaching very challenging," she said.

As IT has moved toward a standardized platform of computer hardware and software, Patti has been able to focus more on software capabilities and less on techniques to move data back and forth. She also has nicer teaching accommodations in the computer training labs in Getchell Library. "We've progressed from Office 97 through Office XP/2002 to the current Office 2003 offerings," she noted.

"And we recently purchased new training materials for the rollout of Office 2007, which we hope to start using in summer 2007."

Patti has also taught the Excel and Access workshops since she started. She teaches three levels for each of the packages: introduction, intermediate and advanced. In the past two years, most of her classes are full and often have waiting lists.

In almost every class, students are amazed at little tips and tricks they learn and are often eager to go back to their offices to show off new time-saving tricks. Besides formal classroom time, Patti also works with individual students on their own data sets.

Patti really believes in the classes offered through Professional Development and Training. "They help the students, their departments and the University in general by providing them with new tools and techniques, making everything work better and more efficiently," she says.

And she gives great credit to Professional Development and Training Office Manager, Kim Bonnenfant, for keeping everything flowing smoothly. "Kim is fabulous to work with and keeps all the instructors organized and motivated."

Outlook for Exchange -Lorenzo Trimble, help desk specialist, has been teaching Professional Development and Training classes for four years, since November 2003.

Over that time, he has taught beginning and intermediate Excel, PC Basics, Outlook, and Outlook for Exchange. For the last two and a half years, Lorenzo has concentrated on the Outlook for Exchange class. He usually teaches the 6-hour-long class six times a year.

"Over 200 people have attended the entire class, with many others who could only attend parts of a class," Lorenzo said.

With his knowledge of Outlook, he also helps keep the IT website's email documentation up to date and writes 'Outlook Quick Tips' for the IT newsletter, some of which are now on the IT website. He is also a frequent presenter at University Network meetings, facilitated by Professional Development and Training. He gives network members tips on Outlook and other computer issues in the Training Tips for Staff section of the meetings.

"I have been teaching ever since a word-processing program could fit on a single floppy disk," he laughs. "Remember those?"

Contribute and Dreamweaver - For the past three years, the University web designer Randy Franklin has been sharing his knowledge of the website-creation tools Adobe Contribute and Dreamweaver with the campus. He estimates that he's taught about 200 people so far, usually in small classes of five to eight students. He currently teaches Adobe Contribute once a month.

In the past, he's also taught an advanced Dreamweaver class, and at previous organizations, he's taught Photoshop, Fireworks, Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere, as well as basic web page development, and database development.

Randy likes the opportunity to teach campus members "unique, useful, and interesting skills when it comes to creating or maintaining their websites," he said.

Microsoft Word and More - Another IT instructor is Rita Heuser, a CIS systems administrator, who has been teaching various classes for Professional Development and Training for the last two years. She has taught PC Troubleshooting, Systems Analysis and Design, Computer Literacy, and the occasional Bookkeeping class.

Currently, she teaches the intermediate and advanced Word classes. Since these classes are very popular, Rita teaches at least one session of each course per month. "That way everyone has an opportunity to attend a workshop no matter what their level of expertise might be," she says.

"I have enjoyed each and every class and the wealth of information I've gained from my students. It's true that if you teach, you learn," she adds.

Computer Basics - IT systems administrator Ed Hanley has been helping University faculty and staff to improve their computer skills for the last two years, as well. He teaches Computer Basics (Windows XP) and Introduction to Microsoft Word.

Ed's interest in teaching and computers goes back a long way. After earning a master's degree in education, and while working as an economic geologist, he soldered together his first computer from a kit. Soon after, as a senior geologist with Shell Oil, he convinced the U.S. Exploration Manager to get a microcomputer for his office and taught him to use the VisiCalc spreadsheet software in one afternoon.

Ed says the manager later told him it saved him three weeks in preparing his annual budget. Now excited about microcomputers, the manager put Ed and a geophysicist to work developing analytical geology software, to justify buying computers for every field office around the country.

The software worked, and the computers were purchased. Ed was then asked to teach the other geologists and staff how to use the computers, and then to network all the computers together using 300-baud modems and MODEM7.

"So I have been helping others to learn computer skills for quite a long time," he says. "Most of what I learned, and taught to others, was learned by making mistakes, then figuring out how to fix them. There were no text books. It was all trial and error."

Ed still loves teaching those relatively new to computing. Many come to his introductory classes when they get new job responsibilities that require improved computer skills. Ed encourages them to experiment, saying "There's no harm in trying something new, as long as your files are backed up!"

Jan Jones, technical communications specialist, Information Technologies, can be reached at janicej@unr.edu.


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