By Paula Ogier
When T. Michael Tracy learned he had been selected RISD|CE’s 2015-2016 Teacher of Excellence, he was both surprised and elated. A RISD grad with a BFA in Illustration, Tracy—who goes by “Mike”—had entered RISD right after high school. Noticing during 2008’s financial crisis that the Internet was still going strong, he threw himself into learning the languages of the Internet.
Since graduating from RISD|CE’s Web Design + Development certificate program, Mike has taught technology courses for CE ranging from the art-based Introduction to Adobe Photoshop and Essentials of SketchUp, to those focused on Web design and coding, including Advanced WordPress: Theme and Custom Coding, Design for Mobile Devices and Web Design with Dreamweaver.
“Most students come from a design background,” Mike says, “and going from a design mindset into a realm closer to computer science means translating images and layouts and behaviors into a series of computer instructions in languages that may be completely foreign to most.” It is at this point of getting into complex computing concepts that he sees students become most challenged. Pulling from his own experience, he shows what specific processes will generate direct results on screen so that students can see the back and forth process involved in making webpages.
“Most students just want to know how it works. Once they see, they take it and run with it. It’s a pleasure to see when that light bulb goes off. The moment I see that reaction, I know they’ll know it forever.”
He admits to being “a bit of a fixture” at RISD|CE, and says with confidence that CE has changed his life for the better by opening the world of the Internet, giving him student connections, and allowing him to help others in their careers: “I know a lot of people who felt stagnated in their careers—myself included—and these courses help them gain control and move forward.” One highlight of his classroom experiences has been seeing students in his apps class go on to publish their first apps for both Android and iOS.
Mike, also an artist, uses the train time commuting to his day job to work on his own projects. He recently completed over 100 new pieces that he has been showing starting with a gallery exhibition at AS220 last February.
When asked if the adage that teachers learn through teaching is true, Mike says “Absolutely! In taking classes, you’re only focused on your own work. However, when you teach, you have a dozen people throwing a dozen questions at you from every direction, and you have to be very alert. You have to know the material cold, and be able to think on your feet.”
“Growing up, my dad gave me a piece of advice, which has rung true,” Mike reflects. “He said that every dime and every minute you spend on your education will come back to you tenfold. I’m pleased to say, I’ve tested the theory and the theory has proven to be true.”
Congratulations, Mike, on helping CE students successfully rise to the challenges of expressing their visions through the window of today’s technology.