Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Jeffrey Bergamini
Jeffrey Bergamini is nearing the end of his first semester as a full-time faculty member in computer science when we meet in the College Library on a rainy morning. He says he loves Mendocino College, his classes, and Ukiah, and feels fortunate to be here - even as he admits to being a bit tired from the challenge of preparing all his courses for the first time. Although it has logic, “computer science is not necessarily intuitive,” he says. As a result, he spends a lot of time coming up with analogies and examples to clarify concepts for his students. He tells me he spent 10 hours last Friday preparing for one assignment! What does he get out of this? “What I like best about my job is that moment when things click, when I am imparting useful information and the students are responding,” he says. He also enjoys guiding interested students into the computer science field, where, he believes, there are endless opportunities.
Born in Cotati, Bergamini grew up mainly in Sparks, Nevada. He returned to California to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he earned both his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees. During his school years he worked as a MESA tutor with middle and high school students. “I really admire people who work with that age group,” he says. “It is not easy!” During school he also held jobs in construction and warehousing, and ran broadcast equipment for a PBS station. He has worked professionally as a web programmer for Microsoft and as a systems administrator at UC Davis. A job as a teaching assistant at Cal Poly inspired him to consider teaching as a career. “I'd never had a job I loved prior to that one,” he says. When he was invited back as a lecturer, he was thrilled, and his career as a college faculty member was launched. Teaching was what he wanted to do with his life.
When he heard about an opening in computer science at Mendocino College, he jumped at the chance. An outdoorsman, he appreciates the hills and open space in this area. The nearby State Parks are a particular delight for him.
Bergamini says he enjoys teaching all his classes, but his current favorite is the survey course, Introduction to Computer Science. He finds this course fun to teach because it takes students all the way from bits and transistors to the internet and video games. He describes his teaching style as “semi-Socratic,” meaning that he asks leading questions and uses group work, “hands on stuff,” to teach the material. He says that he may be known for his classroom policy of open-book, open-notes tests, but that students quickly find out that those things won't help on his tests, which require them to apply the material they have learned rather than to memorize facts.
Computer science student Alex Richards says: “When I first saw Jeff, I was reminded of Ray Manzarek. Then he cut his hair. But even after the haircut, the aura around him remains the same: quiet, but understanding in a way that allows you to speak or pose a question and know he is aware of exactly what you mean.”
Bergamini's wife telecommutes as a web programmer for UC Davis. She thinks their last name would be perfect for a winery! Their family also includes a pet rat named “Freddie.” Bergamini keeps fit by riding his bike to work every day.