Read on to learn about how Dom got interested in technology education, his love for zombie shows and jazz, and much more!
How did you learn about C4K?
I actually knew about it when I was a youngster. I used to walk by the building when they were on Grove Street. And then this particular opportunity was kind of sent my way through a couple of community members.
How did you get interested in technology?
Because of education. I was already working in education at Burley Middle School. And I was trying to find a different way to connect with students and get some core content more exciting, so I started looking into the technology. Then I ended up working in the technology and engineering classes at Monticello High School. And that was super, super fun.
What did you find fun about working in the technology and engineering classes?
The creativity. I am not creative when it comes to music or drawing. But when it came to technology, I kind of found a way to manipulate the computer to do creative things for me.
It was also fun to be able to see the students go through that process of, “Oh, here’s just one thing I’m familiar with, but how can I spice it up?” So a student might say, Oh, I already know how to make a birdhouse, right? But maybe I can put some LED lights on it. Maybe I can put a motor on it, and maybe it just makes weird noises for no reason. So those types of things are really fun for me, to be able to see youth exploring and getting a sense of “this thing is really fun.”
Do you have any advice for youth at C4K?
Oh my. I think the advice I would give to members would be: to try, to try, to try. You never really know what your experience would be until you try. You can’t judge it until you try. Even when things get tough, try, just try to figure it out, try to fix it. Sometimes things get really tough, and sometimes you have to try to take a break from it. But then you try to come back.
I’ve had programming projects. And I just had a bug and I couldn’t fix it. I went to sleep. I was programming in my sleep. I woke up with the answer. So sometimes you need to take a break. And I think there’s a difference between taking a break and giving up. At some point, it’s okay to take a break, but don’t give up on whatever you were attempting to do.
Do you have anything that you’re mostly looking forward to doing at C4K?
Get some of these tools going! You know, I messed around with the 3d printer over the past few days. I know we have a new CNC machine. And I’ve actually trained people on that CNC machine before. So I think those things are kind of—in my opinion—very quick, achievable things we can do.
What is your favorite compliment? Or what are some of the nicest words that you’ve ever heard?
I guess there are two. One is that someone recognized the work I was doing in education. They were talking to the principal. They said Dom is a relationship person, he can build relationships with anyone. Kind of feeding off of that, that principle, later on, said to me: hey, you can talk to anybody.
That is really nice to hear.
It’s actually really weird because I’m a natural introvert. But he realized, hey, you can build relationships with any person, no matter what background they come from. And at that particular school, there were a lot of students with different backgrounds, and some of them kind of conflicted a little bit. So it was a nice compliment that people felt like I had the ability to connect with other people, and not only that I had the ability, but they saw that I was doing that.
How did you get into education?
I fell into it! No seriously. So actually, I left high school early and I went to work. I was working at a summer program. Then I went to visit the high school that I went to. And they heard I was doing really good things, and they said, hey, would you like to come tutor? I said yeah, sure. And I never really left. I was a teaching assistant in a couple of different subject matters at different schools. And then I became a design lab coordinator.
And, you know, I just never really left education and it does feel a little weird for me—I’ve been in Charlottesville my entire life—in some ways, it feels like that I’ve never left school, and that I don’t know anything else in terms of life experience.
What keeps you in education?
I’ll put it this way. We’ve experienced so many different innovative aspects, laptops, online banking, etc. But I think education has not truly undergone the innovation that it needs. And I think that is kind of the thing that really keeps me in education.
I hope someday education will come to a place where it engages students to a point that is just beyond belief. You walk into a school, and students are just like, oh my gosh, I love this place, I really want to be here. And we’re nowhere near that.
What do you think are the possible steps for those innovations?
I think one of the ways that we can do this is through project-based, hands-on learning, which again, a lot of people are starting to recognize, but they don’t have the tools to implement yet or they stop because they fear failures.
I think if a teacher would try a new approach, try making a project that incorporates the standards as opposed to front-loading the standards, then, it might fail, but once you’ve tried that you can learn from that lesson. If you don’t have a failure, you have no lesson to learn. And so I think that’s one of the pieces that, in education, people just need to try something new, and be willing to fail.
Final question. What music have you been listening to recently? Or movies, TV shows?
So music—Jazz, Masego, is my go-to. In terms of TV shows, a lot of the shows I watch are either having some relation to politics and war, or science fiction. I really like science fiction— the world is going to end, and then you gotta get these top scientists to fix it. And I love anything zombie-related.
You’ve got some names?
Names? For zombies?
No, no, for sci-fi movies.
I like 2012. I like The Day After Tomorrow.
What do you like about zombies?
I like the intellect within the craziness. I like the science behind the crazy amusement that happens with all the effects of things blowing up.
Right, zombies are scary and fun.
Yeah, I have a little sister that I’m closer with, and sometimes I’ll give her a little elbow and say, if a zombie apocalypse happened right now, what would you do? We come up with some weird answers, but we always try to think like, how can we get out, and where do we go? So it’s fun.
Alright, that’s all the questions I have. Dom, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It’s really great talking with you.
You got all my wisdom for the day. I’m gonna go home and wrap up in a blanket.