Judith Gal-Ezer Interview: Selected Quotes

This page includes a number of quotes from the Judith Gal-Ezer interview. The interview overview page provides access to some background information, the audio from the interview, a transcript of the interview, and two video snippets.


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A love of learning from the beginning

I loved to learn, just from the beginning. I really loved it. I loved doing my homework. Unbelievable, I mean, my children can't believe it, but I really loved it. And I was a very good student. I met my elementary school teacher, my seventh and eighth elementary grades, a few weeks ago, by accident, and she even told me -- I don't think I ever knew it -- that I was the first in Israel in the exam that we had to take when graduating elementary school. I don't think I ever knew that; I don't think she ever told us.

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Why go to high school?

When I graduated elementary school my father thought that I should go working, go learn something like being a secretary or whatever. Why should I go to high school, I'm going to be a housewife anyway?

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Studies in mathematics and seismology, not computing

We in Israel have to join the army. Well, I went on the academic reserve, so that I could study first the undergraduate program and join the army later. And I joined the army right after graduating and I went to a computer unit. There started my love for computers. [...] So I enrolled in a mathematics program while being in the army. I don’t know if it's allowed! But anyway, I've done it. [...] So I actually continued with my Master’s program and then my instructor of the Master's thesis told me, "I understand that you’re going on to the doctorate." And so I said, "Yes of course!" And this is how I went on to the doctorate program in seismology. And it was still not anything to do with computers. I worked in programming in the army. COBOL. Yes. And while doing the doctorate -- it was in seismology -- and I wrote these huge programs in FORTRAN on these [... p]unch cards, yes! And I think for most of the time of my doctorate I went down to the computer laboratory and put these punch cards on the machine and waited the night to get the output and so on. But this was kind of a beginning ...

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Teaching the beauty of mathematics

I taught various classes, but I very much liked the engineering classes. I taught math, numerical analysis and differential equations, and complex function and -- that's it, I think. I loved it; I really loved it. I felt that I really taught mathematics to the engineers, who weren't interested at all. I mean, they wanted the questions, the solutions, which should be a number, and that's it. Or a recipe or something like this. And I didn't like it. I didn't want it to be this way. So I tried to do my best to teach them the beauty of mathematics. Besides, it was applied mathematics, it's not pure mathematics. But still I thought there is a beauty and to really made them love it. And I think I succeeded. And so I thought teaching ... I went back actually to what I wanted to do when I was in high school or elementary school, to be a teacher.

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Rigor, details, and understanding

I think rigor is one of the things I would center on. Not give up. Going into details. Understanding, really understanding, what you are doing … what you are teaching and what you are learning.

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Great work by the CSTA

They [CSTA, Computer Science Teachers Association] are trying to, well, to put together the curriculum, to conduct the many workshops for teachers, computer science teachers, to collect data that seems to be unavailable. In what states there are requirements for computer science teachers? In what states there are universities that offer computer science education certificate programs? Would it be in an education school or in the computer science school? So we have only eight universities in Israel, much more colleges, but it is all very clear. And it seems to be much more complicated in the US. Even collecting this data seems to be complicated for me as an outsider. So I think the CSTA is doing great work by collecting … trying to collect this data. By serving computer science teachers and trying to find out what they need, what they lack, what they teach actually, because there is no general program that they have to teach except the AP [Advanced Placement], as I understand. So it is very interesting, very demanding.

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Convincing that CS is a science

But my biggest, greatest challenge is ... was and still is to convince that computer science is a science. To convince the Ministry of Education, to convince ... hmm mm mm, what is the word? I don't have the word; I'll come back to it later. To convince that computer science is a science like chemistry, physics, or biology. And it should be taught on the same par with them. That computer science teachers should have a formal education, same as physics teacher or, for that matter, history teachers. This has been my -- policymakers! this is the word that I looked for! -- this is still a challenge. This is still a challenge. Always was and still is.

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Advice on starting out in CS Education

Keep running. Keep doing. Be determined. You will succeed. Once you make it -- what was the sentence I said? -- once she makes it, she is there! Once you make it, you will be there.