Sunday, September 23, 2012

Interview'd AGAIN.

I know what you're thinking, "Gee-ood, did they run out of interesting people?!"  Apparently, yes. Anyway this is a rough draft from Rochelle Beckel, journalism student at SJSU, who came into my class looking to interview an instructor who could loose his/her job if Prop 30 doesn't pass. 
She interviewed a group of my students and then myself.  Here it is, thanks to Rochelle for giving premission to post this.

Rochelle Beckel
Journalism 132C

Prop 30 Personality Profile on Jeffrey Jackson

The minute I walk into Jeffrey Jackson’s animation/illustration fundamentals class and hear him talk, I am instantly at ease.
“It’s Cooooourtney!” Jackson announces dramatically as Courtney Granner, one of his colleagues, introduces me to the class and explains that I will be sitting in on the class and interviewing some of the students about Jackson.
It doesn’t take more than 30 seconds of sitting in the back of the full classroom to realize that Jackson is far from the stereotypical intimidating, impossible to relate to, dull college lecturer that so many students envision their lecturers to be upon beginning their journey into college classes.
“He’s really funny and he jokes around all the time, and he makes learning things seem really simple and there’s not much pressure,” says Olivia Keller, a sophomore animation/illustration major.
After explaining that without Prop 30 passing, Jackson’s career as a lecturer at SJSU would likely be at risk, several students expressed their concern and adamancy that Jackson in no way deserved such a consequence.
“It’s not fair because he does just as much work, if not more, than the other professors here and in other departments,” Keller said. “He stays here for a long time, he has office hours here, he spends more time individually with each student because class sizes are smaller. He really goes to your personal needs, you know if you have personal questions, it’s a lot easier for us to get in contact with him.”
Keller isn’t Jackson’s only student who appreciates his informal, relaxed attitude toward the class. “He’s very down to Earth and he makes you feel comfortable, like no matter what you say you can’t be wrong,” adds Emily Wheeler, a sophomore animation/illustrator major. “He always tells us it’s your own interpretation, everyone has their own interpretation. The school would be losing a really good teacher, a really good teacher. He founded the Shrunken Head Man Club and I mean that’s what this whole program is based off of, that’s how we’ve grown as a major and stuff.”
            The Shrunken Head Man Club started out as a small organization with about 15 members that even gave out free gum to encourage people to join. Now, it has grown to hold 570 members and fills up an entire lecture room in Washington Square Hall. The club discusses upcoming events relating to their field, has guest speakers give presentations, and holds conversations among themselves regarding the myriad of issues they all have to face as students of the art department such as unit caps. Jackson was chosen to be president of the club and is very proud to be known as one of its founding members.
“It’s like this huge family,” Jackson explains. “It’s competition, but it’s friendly competition. Nobody’s coming in to stab you in the back or anything like that.”
Jackson has been a part time lecturer at SJSU for the animation and illustration program since spring 2011, something that has been a longtime dream of his because for him, it meant coming back to teach at his alma mater. A member of SJSU’s 1997 graduating class, he explains one of the ways his experience with college classes and professors influenced his teaching style, but not in the way you might not think.
“I know that there were classes I took at San Jose State where it was like ‘This is how you do it, do what I’m telling you to do and do it my way,’” Jackson explains. “So I try and incorporate some fun, I try and let the students laugh and enjoy themselves but at the same time kind of figure out for themselves what’s working and try and give them a set of different ideas to bounce off of.”
That laid back, relaxed environment that Jackson naturally promotes is evident in the students’ responses to the kind of class he leads every week and a key aspect of why they are so drawn to his lessons and teaching style. Even his office hours are informal; instead of holding them in an actual office, he chooses to have them right in his classroom after the class session ends to help ease the anxiety that some students may have before approaching a teacher for some one on one assistance.
            “The environment he provides, you learn something but it’s very relaxed so you don’t feel intimidated to ask questions,” says Josh Gong, a sophomore majoring in animation/illustration. “You’re always going to have a fun time, but while learning something. He always gets involved with the students, he helps you personally if you just ask him questions and he’ll do the best he can to help you out, and most of the time he’s very helpful.”
“He’s just really funny and really upbeat and he always keeps you involved with the class, you don’t really get lost in it,” adds Saul Uribe, a sophomore animation/illustration major. “You’re always interested in what he’s saying because he keeps the jokes coming and all that. Even though he’s funny and cracks jokes all the time, when he gets to the actual teaching he’s very serious, he gets into it then he explains and there’s no jokes in there, then he goes back to going funny again.”
            Jackson’s teaching experience isn’t limited to just SJSU—he has taught classes at several schools in the past but is currently on his 13th year teaching at Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale in addition to lecturing part time at SJSU. Cogswell is where his teaching career took off after starting out as a supervising animator for the school’s internship program. However, even after the internship program ended he continued to work on animation there with students. He had no idea that eventually, the school’s dean would be asking him if he would be interested in working as an animation teacher for the school.
“It turned out to be like ‘Well in three days, classes start so make sure you sign right here!’” Jackson recalls. “So then I signed, and I thought ‘Ok, well it will be good just for a semester,’ and then after that I was like ‘Wow this is great, I love this’ and so here I am.”
He explains that he believes that what makes a great teacher is someone who really knows the subject that they’re teaching, but at the same time understands the student mind and can explain their subject’s material in a manner that the student can genuinely comprehend.
“I really like being able to see students learning, I think that’s really cool,” says Jackson. “If I can get up in front of an audience of students and they can actually take away some crazy thing that I’ve said and turn it into something they can use as a tool, I think that’s the finest feeling.”
Courtney Granner, a professor of the animation/illustration department and colleague of Jackson, agrees with Jackson’s students that Jackson is an irreplaceable member of the art department community. “I think he understands our culture and how we communicate with our students, and I think he understands that it takes an amazing amount of dedication for the students to succeed. He knows that everyone is an adult and he gives them that respect, but manages to keep things light and lively at the same time,” Granner says. “Jeff’s an outstanding personality, he’s a real colleague, he stepped right in and was able to do the right thing right off the bat. He knows, and he’s a good fit for us.”

There you have it.   So, two things:  DON'T Call me Jeffrey even if you do see it in print and vote YES on prop 30.  Thanks again to Rochelle for interviewing me.