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Teacher of the Month: Derrek Bitner

NMSI’s Teacher of the Month celebrates our amazing teachers, consultants and mentors for their work in and out of the classroom. For May, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked Reese, a junior at Northridge High School in Layton, UT, to reflect on a teacher who has impacted him. He chose Derrek Bitner, his AP Computer Science Principles teacher, who he credits with influencing his decision to pursue his passion in Computer Science.  

As a military brat – my dad is a colonel in the Air Force –  I tend to move a lot. I’m constantly meeting new teachers and being introduced to new teaching styles. However, I don’t think I’ve yet to meet any as unorthodox and yet effective as Mr. Bitner.

I took one of his classes my first year at Northridge High School, Programming 1A. I had been debating on a major, and I was between psychology and computer science. All I knew was that I wanted to help people, and technology is really, really cool. I thought that perhaps this class would help me determine what I wanted to do with my life.

I vividly remember the first class I spent in his computer lab. To introduce himself, Mr. Bitner showed us some of his interests. He brought in a variety of items, such as a Darth Vader action figure, an Xbox controller, a motorcycle helmet and a sting sword replica from Lord of the Rings. Needless to say, he’s a geek, especially when it comes to technology. As the year progressed, he maintained the abnormally large amount of energy he demonstrated the first day of class.

It didn`t take a whole lot of thinking to realize why he was always so upbeat. First, he honestly wanted to help us. He didn`t just stand in front of the class and lecture us. He gave us assignments that challenged us, he gave us free reign to move at our own pace. Second, he shares our passion and also thinks that technology is really, really cool.

This year, I’m enrolled in Mr. Bitner`s first AP class, AP Computer Science Principles. He still maintains the same philosophy, allowing us to make our own mistakes, to work together, to overcome the obstacles that he has purposely placed in front of us. However, instead of being tied down to only programming, Mr. Bitner instead gets to teach us about a plethora of subjects. These topics have opened my eyes to what I could do in my own future.

He has ignited my passion for technology and made me excited to work in the field. Using an example from his own life, he has even shown me how I can combine my two desires — helping people and working with technology — in a fulfilling career. He worked with the airbags in cars long before he came to teach. This may not sound like the most exciting of jobs, but knowing that you are saving lives while doing it makes all the difference. He has shared his passions with me, and in doing so, given me something to strive for.

Thank you, Mr. Bitner!