CodeWizardsHQ instructor Dennis Nicholson is a busy graduate student with an analytical mind and the heart of a teacher. His educational path includes an undergraduate degree in math and his current pursuit, a Master of Divinity at Liberty University. He brings this background and a student-centered teaching approach to each CodeWizardsHQ class that he instructs. His dedication to providing a rich learning experience to CodeWizardsHQ students has earned him an Instructor Spotlight.

Dennis Discovers Java

Dennis enjoying the water

Dennis’s coding story started during a family trip to India. He and his family moved to the United States when he was six years old, but they visited India quite often. On one of those trips, at the age of eleven, Dennis found inspiration.

“We were cleaning out one of the apartments my mom and dad had when they were over there, and there was a Java textbook. I was bored, so I picked it up and looked at it. I remember thinking that this was really cool that you could write all this stuff and get the computer to do things based on what you’re writing. I had done a little bit of programming in Roblox before that. I think that was maybe the start of it, but that book was when I really thought that I could envision whatever I wanted and make it happen.”

After that, Dennis fell down the coding rabbit hole, as he describes it. He started working with Java, watching online videos for his first instruction. The gaming enthusiast’s initial projects involved coding games. In addition, he and his friends had friendly game creation competitions on a platform called Clickteam Fusion.

“That’s some of my favorite memories of coding, just sitting there in the Java IDE trying to figure out how to get things to work in my games, the different menus, and making them look pretty.”

Math and Coding in College

Although Dennis spent his high school years honing his coding skills, it wasn’t until college that he took his first formal coding class. Dennis began his college career at Liberty University as a religious studies major with a math minor. He realized over time that he wanted to incorporate more math into his education, so he switched his major and minor. He explains his affinity for math.

“I really enjoyed my math classes, and I think part of it is just the joy of wrestling through a problem and being able to find that little spark to get past a difficulty you have, and then getting there and thinking, ‘Wow, everything is coming together now.’”

He found that majoring in math allowed him the benefit of adding some computer science classes to his schedule. He took a few classes in C++ and Python, and his love for coding was rekindled. He also found himself tutoring his classmates in computer science, and one of them mentioned that Dennis should tutor professionally.

“I thought that was an interesting idea and that it would be really cool to be able to help people enjoy coding and see the joy in it the same way that I was able to as a kid.”

Dennis at graduation

He started looking for jobs where he could teach coding and came across CodeWizardsHQ.

“I think what stood out to me specifically about CodeWizards was reading the teaching philosophy of really connecting with students and their stories.”

Dennis shared that his favorite teachers are those who view him as a person, strive to get to know him, and care about how he is shaped by the lessons in the class. He found that perspective at CodeWizardsHQ.

“Everybody really cares about the kids and wants to help them enjoy coding and love it.”

Teaching at CodeWizardsHQ

Dennis has been teaching at CodeWizards for a year. He teaches all grade levels, elementary, middle, and high school, and he has taught Python, HTML/CSS, and Scratch. When asked about his favorite languages, he finds it difficult to choose between Scratch and HTML.

“I think the reason for those two is that I love the creativity that goes into both of them. There’s something about being able to open a blank file, type in some HTML, and then you have a website, and you can customize every single aspect of it, or even Scratch, where you have a blank canvas. That’s the main reason I love coding, the ability to start from scratch and build something. Being able to lead students through that kind of accomplishment is really cool.”

Dennis is passionate about teaching. His ultimate goal is to work in the ministry, but he also wants to continue to teach computer science or math.

“Teaching is one thing that I really enjoy, not only on the coding side, obviously, but on the ministry side of things as well. I like being able to help people see the value and beauty in things that they might not have seen before.”

When asked about his favorite classroom moments, Dennis recounts that he enjoys seeing students personalize their projects.

“I love the personality that goes into coding. It’s sometimes viewed as an abstract and mechanical thing, but it’s a very human thing. And it’s cool to see students really push forward because, as much as we are teaching them, we are trying to guide them so that they succeed, and so it’s their project. I love when students take projects and run with them and make them their own.”

Dennis encourages parents to follow their children’s lead if they see a spark of interest in coding and details why CodeWizardsHQ should be at the top of their education choices.

Dennis and friends

“Not only do we care about your kids as instructors, but it’s structured in such a way that we do check in with your kids. We have those one-on-one relationships. We’re building them throughout the different classes, and that’s the heart of what we’re trying to do. It’s not just ‘let’s get your kids the things they need to code so that they can go out and get a job,’ we actually care about your kids specifically, and they’re really going to enjoy it and get a lot out of it because of that.”

Hobbies and Downtime

With several teaching jobs and the workload of a full-time student, it’s a wonder Dennis has any downtime at all, but he does manage to continue to play video games. He enjoys playing Minecraft with his sisters. He also likes simulation games like City Skylines and has recently picked up a new game, Lethal Company.

Dennis ran cross country in high school, and he still enjoys running through the picturesque town of Lynchburg. He also enjoys hiking with friends in the Blue Ridge Mountains near campus, finding the nature and stunning scenery a great getaway from multiple teaching positions and his full time student schedule.

If that wasn’t enough to fill his time, Dennis also writes for blogs. His content includes mystery-oriented stories and non-fiction anime-themed posts.

Dennis’s impressive passion for teaching kids to code contributes to the exemplary learning environment at CodeWizardsHQ. We are fortunate to have him as part of our coding family, and we are proud to shine a light on his accomplishments with our monthly Spotlight.