Gordon Family YMCA
Homeschooled until the eighth grade, the Y had always been Alexej’s social outlet. As he got older, he developed an interest in computers and coding and was surprised to discover a way to share some of his skills with others at the Y.
“As a homeschooler, I didn’t interact with people quite as often as kids who go to school,” he says. “The Y allowed me to do that.”
When Alexej’s mother joined the arts team at Gordon upon its opening, Alexej was only 14. He noticed that the new facility had a media lab and so he challenged himself to step out of his comfort zone and volunteer to teach an app design class. He enjoyed the experience so much, he continued to teach more and more classes.
With help from other instructors, Alexej’s classes took on a life of their own, and multiplied into a wide range of digital arts classes. For Alexej, the biggest payoff is seeing his students become comfortable and confident enough to begin teaching themselves like he did.
“My favorite thing is when students start helping other students learn as well,” he says. “When I found that I could teach myself to design apps, I was really just doing my own thing. Nowadays, I teach myself through teaching others, and I’m constantly impressed by the ideas my students get in class.”
Alexej’s repertoire also extends to robotics, photography, and filmmaking, and his interdisciplinary approach allows students to explore many different aspects of the digital arts in one class.
“My younger robotics [students] are very bright,” he says. “I’m excited to challenge them a little with code as they move into more advanced robotics classes.” In the future, for example, he hopes to teach them how to hack everyday appliances like vacuum cleaners to show them how household technology functions.
“I’ve always enjoyed understanding how something works. It’s one thing to use something and be amazed by it, but to really understand how much effort goes into that piece of technology opens your world so much."
Alexej teaches students as young as 7 years old and and he loves having the chance to introduce them to the world of digital arts.The benefits of teaching have been two-fold for Alexej: “I’ve learned a lot about the digital arts through teaching them, but I’ve also found that I really love teaching and that I can see myself doing it in the future.”