Faculty Spotlight – John Schley

How long have you been teaching at Simpson and what do you teach?
I’ve been teaching at Simpson for ten years. I teach the Database series (CIS 255 & 355) in West Des Moines, along with a Capstone and Database Certificate course here and there.

Do you work outside of Simpson?
Yes. I’m currently a Data Modeler at Wellmark, working on a data warehouse project and have worked at Principal Financial Group and Nationwide Insurance, as well.

Where did you graduate?
I graduated with a B.S. in Mathematics and minor in Computer Science from Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota.

What makes teaching at Simpson unique?
Although many colleges have extended campuses in Des Moines or nearby suburbs, Simpson offers the most robust computer science curriculum. This attracts a good population of students working to complete courses and/or degrees in Information Technology. Also, Simpson stresses the life experiences of their instructors, building an expectation in the students that they will receive “real world” knowledge, in addition to mastering the concepts.

What do you enjoy most about working with adult students?
Many of the students in my classes are moving (or looking to move) into Information Technology positions at their work or wanting to expand their abilities in that area. This makes them very motivated to learn the material, which is great. But it also challenges me to deliver the material in a way that enables them to master and apply new techniques quickly. I appreciate how dedicated the students are to completing the workshops, even at the end of a long class (at end of a long day at work).

You’ve recently been awarded the Excellence in Adult Education Award-congratulations!  Would you please tell us a little about the experience?
It sure was a surprise to receive this award! I used the opportunity to speak at the Student Celebration to reflect on what I enjoyed about teaching. I also used it as a chance to discuss a topic near and dear to my heart, database normalization. I encouraged the graduates to “normalize” their lives, meaning to put their lives back in order after likely needing to concentrate their focus and distort their schedule to complete their degree. That is really my experience every May, once the grades are in, so it was an easy topic to describe. My family was able to attend and it was nice being able to share the experience with them and to thank them for their role in this award.

Please tell us about your background and how it influences the way you teach database?
I’ve always been an experiential learner, so I try to teach in that manner. We do a lot of workshops so the students can have a chance to apply the concepts we’ve discussed. I still lecture too much, I’m sure, but I’m trying.  I also like to use humor as a way to help people relax and improve the learning environment. To that end, I start most classes with a review of last week’s material using various game shows (“Jeopardy”, “Match Game”, “Hollywood Squares”, etc…).

Please tell us about your family and how you like to spend your free time.
My wife, Lora Kracht, and I just celebrated our 20 year anniversary. We have two sons, Caleb (17) and Ezra (15) and one daughter, Austa, who is 12. We live in the Drake neighborhood  and the boys attend Roosevelt High School. Soccer is the family industry. All three kids play and I’ve coached Ezra’s team since he was in the Under-8 division. The kids and I all referee soccer and spend Sunday evenings discussing close calls and obnoxious coaches and parents we’ve seen over the weekend.

What is your favorite vacation spot, favorite book, and/or favorite film?
My favorite film is Ladyhawke, a mid-80’s fantasy pic that featured Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Brodderick before they were famous, along with Rutger Hauer. It has great music, great scenery and a beautiful ending. OK, under the tough data scientist exterior, I’m a romantic at heart. J