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Omar Khan is an instructor at Juni Learning. He is currently pursuing his B.S. in Computer Science at UC Berkeley.
When did you know you wanted to work in Computer Science?
I came into college at UC Berkeley as a bioengineering major. I took an introductory programming course, and I ended up liking it a lot. In our projects, there were tests that we had to run on our code. It was very satisfying for me when the computer would finally print out, “All test cases passed.”
What do you think is most unique about Juni?
It’s a one-on-one environment, so when one of my students has trouble understanding a certain topic, we’re able to spend more time on it. Also, as instructors, we really get to know the student. I just finished our advanced Python course with one of my students, and I got to see so much of his progress. He was already pretty proficient when we started working together, but when he finished the course he had improved so much. I thought that was really nice to see.
What do you do outside of teaching with Juni?
I’m a computer science mentor at Berkeley for our data structures class. It’s nice because there are four to five junior mentors for two seniors per “family.” You can converse to get feedback and learn from each other. I’m also part of the Berkeley Engineers and Mentors program. We go to local high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools to teach a lesson in science every week.
What are some of your teaching principles or strategies?
I like to challenge my students with extra problems. Sometimes, I throw in questions I’ve seen in my coursework before. When they complete it, I tell them, “By the way, that was from a college course, so you just completed a college-level computer science problem!” and they think it’s very cool.
Since I’ve taught a lot of students, my teaching abilities have improved. Through a lot of trial and error, I know the types of analogies and explanations that tend to make sense to students. I try to walk through a lot of examples. I also will use the virtual whiteboard to draw so that they can visualize all of the information. That’s something that works really well.
Any advice for students or parents who are interested in Juni?
Do it! I wish I had gotten involved in CS earlier. I learned a little bit about it during my senior year of high school, but I didn’t actually get into algorithms or data structures. I would have had a much easier time in college if I had done more in high school. I have some classmates in college who know so much already.
What motivates you?
Honestly, I like to just know things. For example, I have a book about algorithms that I read every night. As I’m sleeping, instead of dreaming about random stuff, I try to think about the problem. That’s fun for me!