Fabian Perez got his start as a teacher when he was a teenager — the age of the students he’s teaching now. When he was 14, his parents had just split up, and his mother took a job that required them to move from their home in Mexico to Canada, for a year. When they moved, Fabian was given a choice; he could go to high school in Ottawa, or he could spend his time learning English properly.
“Being something of a couch potato I chose the latter, thinking learning English in Canada would be basically like osmosis, where I would only have to watch TV and go to the mall and indulge in my hobbies,” he said.
That wasn’t the case. His mom enrolled him in an intensive English language school for a year. At the time he was less than thrilled, but when they returned to Mexico, Fabian turned his newfound knowledge of English into an advantage, working as a teacher’s assistant at a community center. But on his first day, the teacher who was supposed to give the English lesson didn’t show up. So, 15-year-old Fabian stepped in, following along in the book and giving the class some exercises.
“From my point of view, it was a very mediocre class,” he said. “But at the end, an elderly gentleman stood up, took off his hat, and told me with utmost admiration, ‘Teacher, this was an amazing class.’ That was my a-ha moment.”
After that, Fabian decided he’d be a teacher and began enrolling in teaching courses.
How does an engineer become a coding teacher?
Fabian may have started his professional life as a teacher, but it’s not the only job he’s had.
Since that a-ha moment in the community center classroom, he’s worked in a variety of jobs ranging from busboy to IT freelancer. He studied engineering — his childhood dream. Because of his previous teaching experience, however, Fabian found himself teaching math and physics to grade school children. Later, he taught robotics.
Then, four years ago, he found an online ad for Tekkie Uni. It’s been a breath of fresh air for Fabian, whose biggest challenge as a teacher has been “dealing with the shortcomings of an education system that zaps the interest and passion out of my students in subjects like math or science and rekindling that flame,” because the kids who enroll in his Tekkie Uni classes are excited to learn coding.
“I think what I enjoy the most about it is how everyone I teach is interested and passionate about the classes,” he said. “They are here because they want to be.”
How do you engage students during a pandemic?
Fabian doesn’t find teaching online to be much different from teaching in person, other than the fact that he doesn’t have to leave home. In recent weeks he has noticed that his students have gotten a little restless, during the Coronavirus quarantine.
“Many of the students are a little frustrated by being unable to go outside for so long, but many of them are coping well enough,” he said. “I think once the pandemic has passed, they will rediscover what being a kid really is all about.”
Asked how he inspires his students in class, Fabian is modest — his students are already highly motivated. He simply helps direct their passion. Mostly, he says, he just loves being able to teach them.
“I love the impact I have as a teacher. I can’t fathom why so many people get into the profession when it’s clearly something they don’t enjoy doing,” he said.