Thornley’s newest adventure with Computer Networking class

Math teacher and now Computer Networking teacher Brian Thornley works out the kinks of his first year teaching Computer Networking

Math teacher Ben Thornley stands proudly, ready to take on his new class in computer sciences. (B. Rocks)

Math teacher Ben Thornley stands proudly, ready to take on his new class in computer sciences. (B. Rocks)

By Ben Rocks

The third-period bell echoes from the hallway into the room of C2120. The 29 students fall silent, awaiting directions. Brian Thornley rises from his desk ecstatic to teach something different, something new: Computer Networking.

This is the first year of the class, and it is being run by Thornley, who is certified in computer science. For the past 15 years, he has been teaching in the math department but is now stepping into another role. For those not familiar with computer science, it is essentially the way any device from your phone, computer, or even Ring doorbell communicates. They are all connected in one way or another, and that communication is what the class focuses on. 

Although the class may be new, the concept has been in the works for a while.

“Mr. Wedoff came to me a couple years ago, saying ‘hey I know you are certified in computer science, would you be interested in teaching this class?’ I said sure, not knowing what I would get myself into,” Thornley said.

This led him to finding the reason to take this class. 

“[It] gives kids life skills for a career that involves making sure that our technology is interconnected and works,” Thornley said. 

The class is not about achieving the A to pass, but learning something that can be directly applied to the real world and can help get a job in this field.

Thornley has crafted his curriculum around a platform called Cisco to fit the high school level. However, that did not stop him from being intimidated at first. Fortunately, a fellow colleague, Michelle Zietlow, has been there to show guidance. She teaches him not only to view the classroom differently but also how completely different the class dynamic needs to be to breed success. 

According to Thornley, she is a godsend. 

With the start of the class in August, it was in no way perfect. They did have some bumps in the road. Due to supply chain issues, they were unable to get the equipment they needed to run their class properly. Lucky, emulators have helped out and were able to replicate the experience, which bleeds into how the class structure is. 

The units tend to swing in the direction of learning new information by taking notes at the beginning of the week, then directly applying those skills in a packet tracer emulator. These labs can take anywhere from two to four days.

The 29 students enrolled in the class range in all categories. From freshmen who have not been in a real school setting since sixth grade, to seniors who are well beyond ready to get their diploma. This causes the pre-assessed knowledge to be all over, creating the potential circumstance for redundancy in the class. 

“[The environment is] extremely lively, between the students and the teachers in it,”  senior Evan Gronewold said.

With it being just the first year, the class is destined to evolve and refine itself. Many changes will be made, as any class should to maximize its applicability, but it will also retain its core goal of making the class a welcoming environment for those wanting to learn about networking. Amidst everything, the hope is that the program keeps growing as the years pass and continues to help expose the students at Huntley High School to the world of computer networking.