Feature Story

A student’s love for networking evolves into teaching others

How Alaskan, Stephanie Harvey's love of IT evolved into becoming a Cisco Networking Academy instructor

Stephanie Harvey's personal education didn't follow the typical path. As an early-in-life mother, she had to take a break from her education and return when her children became a bit older. It is when she returned to school that she discovered her love for computer networking. Her teachers saw her passion for IT and fueled her internal fire for the subject – ultimately leading to her become a networking teacher.

Being a teacher can be rewarding but it also has its challenges. Connecting with students in a classroom can be a difficult. Now imagine if your students are not even in the same room. Stephanie Harvey is a Cisco Networking Academy instructor in Alaska, where many of her students learn remotely. Although several miles apart, she is committed to providing the support and guidance that her students need to succeed – a key quality of any good teacher.

On World Teacher Day we wanted to celebrate and thank teachers like Stephanie – those who are committed to their students and helping others.

Read on to learn a bit more about Stephanie Harvey:

Could you share a little about yourself and what you do?

I live in Juneau, Alaska with my husband and two young boys. I’m an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I primarily teach CCNA and Python courses to students online. Many of my students have full-time jobs, travel regularly, or live in remote locations within Alaska. Since they aren’t able to attend in-person classes, the online format provides them with a way to learn about networking and coding from anywhere, essentially on their own schedules. I was once a distance student taking Cisco Networking Academy courses that weren’t available to me locally, so I empathize with their needs and love being able to relate to them personally. After all, I was where they are just a few years ago!

What made you want to become a teacher?

I had amazing instructors who saw I was fascinated with IT, particularly networking, and they helped foster that interest. Honestly, one of my instructors recognized my teaching potential before I saw it in myself. In class, I frequently helped other students with device or configuration issues. I wouldn’t necessarily give them the answers directly, but would instead walk them through the troubleshooting process to figure out the issue. By the 4th course of the CCNA series, my instructor even asked me to take over and guide everyone in the class through labs! To me, it was just fun and I loved learning. It really hit me that I wanted to teach and help people achieve their goals when I attended my first Cisco Live as part of the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team. During the conference, I met so many amazing people; I loved helping my teammates study for exams and collaborating to set up the event's wireless network. It was there that I realized that I wanted to be like my instructors and help people like me learn about networking, security, coding, etc. Since then, I’ve attended two other Cisco Lives and met with many of the Dream Team members that followed in my footsteps, trying to help them get their careers kick-started. 

See also: Cisco announces new commitment at 2019 Global Citizen Festival

Image of Stephanie Harvey, Cisco Networking Academy Instructor in Alaska

How did Cisco Networking Academy impact you?

Cisco Networking Academy has been involved in my life some way or another for a little over 5 years. I was first introduced to Networking Academy as a student and took several courses, including the CCNA ones I now teach. After I finished the CCNA courses, my instructor nominated me to be on the Dream Team, which consists of 10 Networking Academy students and 2 instructors selected from all over North America to go to Cisco Live and help set up and maintain the network for the week-long conference. Being selected changed the entire trajectory of my career. From that point, I went through the process of becoming an instructor and then teaching at the university. So, I would have to say that Cisco Networking Academy has helped me not only further my own education, but also provided me with the people and resources I needed to kick-start my teaching career.

What is your favorite part about being a teacher?

My favorite part of teaching is that technology is always changing and there are always new things to learn, talk about, and teach. As most teachers would say, I love helping people and I love “AH HA!” moments. However, being a teacher, I’m constantly learning myself. I’m not only learning about new things happening in the tech world, but also learning new ways to teach. Working with inquisitive, diligent students challenges me to become a better teacher, and I’m always striving to grow and improve.

What’s some advice you would give to someone who is trying to pursue a teaching career?

My best advice is to put yourself out there – even if you feel uncomfortable. Reach out to other people in your field of study and solicit advice. You probably have more options than you realize and more than likely know people who are willing to help you get started in your career.  I've found there are so many people in the tech field who are willing to offer advice and guidance, and they can often help identify opportunities that you wouldn’t know about otherwise. I see it all the time on social media: People helping each other out with issues, offering advice, or even helping people find jobs. If you’re interested in teaching IT, I would definitely recommend you start by reaching out to an instructor you know and asking them questions. Who knows, they may be able to help you get a job!


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