I have placed this speech on the web because it thanks several teachers who were influential in my career. Teachers get very little recognition for their wonderful work. I only hope by placing this speech where others can read it that Jack, Martin, Kent, Larry, and Arlan receive some of the credit that they deserve.
January 29, 1998
Comments made by Ken Joy upon receiving the 1997-98 UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award.
Thank you Larry (Vanderhoef, Chancellor).
Thank you Linda (Acredelo, Chair of the Awards Committee).
I would like to thank those who nominated me for this award: Chip Martel, my faculty sponsor; Fritz Barnes, my graduate student sponsor; Ben Jordan, my undergraduate student sponsor (who could not be here tonight); and over 60 students who wrote letters in my behalf.
This is a wonderful award. However, with recognition comes reflection, and as I thought further, I realized that the award belongs to a large group of people -- not just to Ken Joy. I would like to take the opportunity to thank a few of these people -- so stay with me for a few minutes.
I would like to thank Jack Bibb. Jack was the first to show me (by example) that you could expect, and get results from a class. I was one of these results. Jack's classes were difficult, demanding, sometimes fun, and always fair. I borrowed this "difficult, demanding, fun and fair" paradigm from Jack and have used it in all my classes. Many think that it is unusual for computer science professor to model is classes after those of an English teacher, but it has worked successfully for over 20 years.
A large part of this award belongs to Jack!
I would like to thank Martin Popish. Martin is one of the world's great classroom instructors, and I was fortunate to be one of his students.
Martin always challenged his students. If he had a talented student, he found a way to create a situation where the student could be challenged. Sometimes he placed students into advanced classes, and he bent the rules somewhat to get them there. I was one of the first of these students, and have never forgotten the extra effort this teacher gave in my behalf.
I asked myself for many years, "How could I repay this effort?" Eventually I realized that the best way was to do the same for my students. Therefore, I continually challenge my students. I seek out talented students and put them into situations where they are motivated to learn. My department chair comes to me frequently and says, "Ken, your graduate class has 15 students this quarter, which is great. However, there are seven undergraduates in the class, who are not supposed to be there." Well, they are supposed to be there, and it is because of Martin that they are. Earlier, Linda spoke of the "small army" of successful alumni that have graduated from our program: These are the legacy of Martin Popish.
I would like to thank Kent Goodrich. Kent was an outstanding teacher who taught me something unique.
I took, along with several others, a 2 1/2-year course from Kent. Throughout this course, we were presented with notes on a weekly basis -- notes that would help us learn the required material. Kent convinced me that writing these notes was not a time-consuming process, but was something that only took a small amount of time per week. He made me see that if you wrote down what you learned, and did this over time, you would soon have a substantial set of notes that would help your students learn. Because of this, I have written throughout my career. The extensive sets of notes that I have on the net, which are used by students throughout the world, are due to Kent's influence.
I would like to thank Larry Baggett. Over the several years I worked with Larry, he taught me many things: two of these dramatically improved my classes. I borrowed Larry's techniques for giving "easy" examinations. I often read Larry's exams, and was amazed that he could get a great grade distribution with simple problems. After thinking about his methods for some time I realized that he had a vehicle that would require the students to review the material, would evaluate their progress, and (most importantly) would enhance their enthusiasm for learning the material. I have used his examination strategy for over 20 years.
The second thing I borrowed from Larry will be recognized by most of my students. Larry often said to me "If half your students are not complaining about the workload of the course, you're not doing your job!" Well, my students complain about the workload in my courses -- but they also say that they learn so much, and have fun doing it.
A large part of this award belongs to Larry!
I would like to thank Arlan Ramsay. Arlan assigned fascinating problems. He would stand back, think a while, and then write out a problem -- usually taking up about one-third of the blackboard. He would then look at the problem and say, "That looks about right. If it is right, do it! If it isn't right, tell me what's wrong with it. Then, fix it up so it is right, and do it!" These were not the usual academic problems, but were similar to problems encountered in the real world, where part of the problem is defining "the problem." We learned a tremendous amount in this course, and it was largely due to these problems. I borrowed these "open ended" problems from Arlan, and have used them in all my courses. They drive my students crazy, but they learn so much by solving them.
Each time Arlan assigned one of these problems, the students would have a meeting after class and try to decide if the problems were solvable -- the problem statements were rarely correct as stated. These meetings were very productive, as each of us could contribute to the discussion in different ways. I didn't see this is important for several years, but this collaborative learning environment -- this team -- allowed us to address difficult problems. I now force a collaborative atmosphere in all my classes, and my students learn so much because of it.
A large part of this award belongs to Arlan!
I would like to thank a special undergraduate who spoke with me after graduation in 1983. The student graduated from our program with a 3.1 overall grade-point average and boasted that he never finished an assignment. I went into the office the next day, looked into my grade book, and yes, he passed my course without completing any assignment. I soon found that several other faculty members had the same experience. Reflecting on this, I saw that I could expect results for my classes only if I insisted that the students themselves get results. I looked back on Jack's classes -- my model -- and realized that the success of his classes was largely because he insisted on results from us. That day I changed the way I allow students to turn in homework. There is no partial credit in my courses for incomplete work, as we don't start grading until the problems are complete. The students complain bitterly, but they learn so much more because of this.
This student is a big part of this award -- and unfortunately, I've never been able to remember his name. (I'd like to send him a thank-you note.)
There is one special person to thank! For almost 30 years, she has been my sounding board, my confidant, and my friend. During this time, she's given me wonderful criticism -- constructive criticism -- and is been supportive of everything that I do. She gets to share all my frustrations, but few of my successes. Tonight I would like her to share in this success -- my wife, Edi.
Now, I'd like to thank about 1500 other people -- but don't worry, I won't thank them individually.
About two months after I arrived at UC Davis, I realized that I was working with the best undergraduate student population in the United States. No matter how demanding my course, no matter how badly I lecture, no matter how "open" my problems, the students have responded with incredible enthusiasm and have obtained results that are far beyond my expectations. I have learned a tremendous amount from them and I only hope that they have learned as much because of me.
To have their overwhelming support in application for this award was one of the special moments of my career.
They are a huge part of this award!
So, from Ken...
and for Jack and Martin,
for Kent, Larry and Arlan,
for an unnamed undergraduate,
and for the greatest students in the world,
"We" thank you for this award.