American poet Mark Van Doren once said, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery”, and such is the case at General Assembly, a 10-year-old bootcamp that has made its name as one of the industry’s leading education providers.
At General Assembly, the instructors consist of diverse leaders in a slew of areas like technology, business, data, and design. The school believes in hiring only the best to groom the next generations of leaders, having employed professionals from innovative companies such as Adobe, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and PayPal.
Seeing as high-quality education is the core of success, it is crucial for students to learn about the individuals entrusted to facilitate learning in a particular schooling environment.
Not only will students get to know more about the instructors, but they will also get to evaluate what the instructors can offer, how they can help them achieve their career goals, and how their expertise can benefit them.
“The student experience starts as soon as an individual makes the decision to enroll at [sic] GA. We ensure everything is as thoughtful and supportive as possible. To do this, the Student Success team partners closely with instructors and career coaches to act as the bridge that brings the full student experience together,” the school said in its Student Outcomes Report.
The quality of the teachers speaks volumes of the quality of the education itself. That is why General Assembly strives to employ only top-tier instructors who are talented in their respective fields. To date, the school has close to 1,000 staff across its 39 locations in seven countries, with over 1,500 active instructors of its immersive and part-time programs.
In this article, we will get a glimpse into General Assembly’s classroom experience through the stories of four instructors: Kayte Demont, Michael Valeri, Chana Messer, and Vance Wallace.
Kayte Demont: “GA environment sparks powerful conversations.”
Kayte Demont wears multiple hats. This Maine-born creative is a content creator, photographer, artist, and more. She also teaches Instagram Masterclass and a few other panels and one-off events at General Assembly.
After graduating from Gettysburg College with a degree in English and Studio Art, she created the blog Mass Musings in 2012 as a central place of inspiration for creative individuals. The blog featured engaging content tailored to help bolster its brand partners and remained active until January this year.
“Mass Musings (MM) took many shapes over the years but the majority of its ethos was content creation and creative community. I was afforded some incredible opportunities through MM, working with General Assembly being one of them. MM came up during the social media/ Instagram boom and it’s been a wild ride of learning and evolving ever since!”
With over 13,000 followers on Instagram and over 20,000 more on TikTok, Ms. Demont truly understands the power of content creation and the positive effect it can trigger. This social media guru, however, remained humble and said she owed her success to the platform given by General Assembly.
“I tell every class I teach that GA is a huge factor in the success of my professional career. They aren’t afraid to think out of the box and I believe that environment sparks powerful conversations that propel new ideas and solutions. It’s amazing to have a network of people who are doing what they are doing,” she said.
At General Assembly, Ms. Demont shared her journey and advice on how to navigate the world of social media without losing one’s true self. She also teaches students how to engage with the audience, particularly through writing and photography.
“My personal approach to teaching is to run through the overview of the platform and then I try to leave about an hour for questions. It’s important to me to have the class be conversational as there are so many different experience levels.
“Usually, the students end up teaching each other and brainstorming far beyond class time. It feels awesome to be able to foster that type of learning and connection,” she added.
Ms. Demont said one of her favorite things about teaching at General Assembly is the opportunity to watch her students grow their online presence by utilizing the skills taught in class.
“A handful of my students have stayed connected and it’s been incredible to watch them grow their skills and businesses!”
Michael Valeri: “When people feel empowered, they retain information to a greater degree.”
This senior analytics professional has had an illustrious portfolio, with over seven years of experience mining, refining, and presenting big data across multiple Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, Microsoft, T-Mobile, GoDaddy, Expedia, and Big Fish Games.
He believes that everyone has the right to understand how their data is being used, regardless of their technical aptitude, experience, age, or background.
“I started teaching when I worked as a Finance Analyst at Amazon where I worked closely with incoming interns. I found the experience to be so rewarding that I wanted to take my education skills to the next level with GA,” he said.
At General Assembly, Mr. Valeri has taught a variety of topics like Data Analytics, Excel, SQL, and even a class on how to live without a smartphone. His personal approach to teaching is to make students feel seen and heard, and he is a firm believer in empowering them with information and confidence.
“I want my students to feel like their point of view and questions matter. I often say I’m a confidence coach that just so happens to teach SQL. If you preach confidence to your students, it will transfer to all other aspects of their lives.”
Recalling his proudest moment as an instructor, the tech expert said it was when he helped a student land a promotion at Amazon after being told by her employer that she needed to brush up on her SQL and Tableau skills in order to qualify.
“By the end of the 10-week bootcamp (Data Analytics part-time), she was promoted and is now the owner of her organization’s dashboards. She celebrated by bringing in a pie. Best dessert ever,” he gushed.
Being an industry veteran himself, Mr. Valeri said he admired the practicality that is ingrained in General Assembly’s curricula as it proves to be extremely helpful for students when they move to the big league.
“The most common complaint I hear from students who learn Data Analytics through higher education is the lack of application. You’ll spend a whole lot of time talking about SQL, the pros and cons of the language, and the buzzwords associated with it. At General Assembly, you’ll actually architect and write code from scratch. That’s what employers care about…execution, not theory.”
Mr. Valeri said he personally felt that the most rewarding part about teaching is being a part of someone’s journey.
“Knowledge transfers between people and each one of us is part of a giant chain that never stops growing,” he said.
Chana Messer: “GA has a unique environment that makes students and instructors feel like it’s their home.”
Chana Messer is far from a novice, having taught at the tertiary level for over 30 years in the fields of Fine Art and Digital Imaging. She has taught at numerous prestigious institutes including USC, UCLA Extension, and Parsons School of Design. She has also given training to employees of Walt Disney Company. Mattel, Inc. Warner Bros. IBM, and Apple, among others.
Ms. Messer is an Adobe Certified Expert, Adobe Partner, Adobe Community Professional, a member of the Adobe Freelance Team, Adobe Education Leader, and an Adobe User Group Manager. As such, she has been invited to present at Adobe events across the U.S. and overseas. Over the past few years, she has also been a part of the team writing the Adobe certification tests.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that this Adobe whizz is entrusted to teach Adobe Applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign at General Assembly.
“I started teaching in GA about five years ago. I am a designer and an artist; my classes are geared for art directors, designers, photographers, social media, and marketers. Lately, my students also come from the UX design classes since they need to know design applications.”
When it comes to teaching, Ms. Messer exercises a hands-on approach with her students, adding that this is the best method to create art and simultaneously understand the software.
“My approach to teaching is to be as clear as possible, prepare the outline for classes, send the students my class files ahead of time, and make sure I teach hands-on.
“It is simple: share my knowledge with the students, talk about real-life examples, and explain to them everything even if it takes more than one time to go over a topic. My goal is to make them understand the topic and the content and be ready to create their own material.”
Ms. Messer said although she also teaches at other schools, she enjoys the environment at General Assembly and the free communication policy that it employs.
“I love the students that come through my classes. They are interesting and come from different spectrums of the design world. It is never boring! I always get to know new people and at times I stay connected to them and help them later with their career.
“I love the easy and friendly environment. The way the campus is arranged is perfect for students to learn, share their ideas, and relax if they need it between sessions.”
When she is not teaching, Ms. Messer works independently at her design studio Mac in Art, offering creative consulting, technical skills, and art direction. She contributes to the creative community with tutorials, advice, and resources through her programs, webinars, and industry events.
Vance Wallace: “GA students are always curious, eager to learn.”
Vance Wallace is not your average techie. This engineer slash product manager has a wide array of interests ranging from technology to acting; in fact, he has even toured the country and performed Shakespeare on the stage professionally.
It was, however, only for a brief period as he answered his other calling in the tech industry. After getting his master’s degree in Carnegie Mellon, he worked as a game designer for about a decade in Silicon Valley—a period during which he discovered a new knack for teaching.
“During that time I created and taught a game design class at American University, my other teaching experience was at the University of Maryland where I taught and worked as a teaching assistant in liberal arts and theatre.”
Now, he runs his own startup and teaches several classes at General Assembly including Product Management, Agile Development Practices, and Game Design.
“My personal approach to teaching is to try to infuse the class with as much of my personal experience in the topic as possible so that students feel that they are learning from someone with hands-on experience rather than just a textbook,” he said.
Being a tech entrepreneur, no two days in Mr. Wallace’s calendar look the same, so he said he enjoys the comfort of knowing exactly what to expect and what to deliver during his classes. He also said that he loves the feedback he received from students.
“I’m certainly always excited to tell people about my partnership with GA and my positive experience sharing what I have learned with the students there. I really like the students that enroll in my classes; they are always so curious, eager to learn, and quick to share their own relevant experiences which is [sic] honestly very interesting to me.
“One of my game design students was quite young and I was really proud to see the accomplishment and amazement in his eyes as he realized that game design was something that he could actually do,” he shared.
In this article, we have highlighted four top instructors and learned their opinion about what makes General Assembly a great place for education. If you’re interested to find out more, feel free to drop a note on the website and inquire about its courses, career support, and scholarships.
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