Stephen Bresnick

AcquiaU Session: 
2014 Winter Session

Drupalicious Educator

If you told me ten years ago that I would be working for one of the fastest growing private software companies in the world, I might not have believed it. I grew up in the Boston suburbs as the middle child between two sisters. Back then, the sports landscape was pretty grim and the winters were long and cold. These two factors undoubtedly contributed to my love of two activities: playing piano and reading literature. I played some Nintendo and Atari, and most of my essays were created on a word processor and printed on a dot matrix printer (I’m dating myself a little here). Other than that, I did not grow up using computers very much at all. And I certainly didn’t start out in my career with a focus on technology.

I attended college at Union College in upstate New York, majoring in English. One class, Computers and Computing, first introduced me to web design. It was the late ‘90s and static content with animated gifs were all the rage. When I graduated, I felt that my creative side was not going to be fueled by many of the entry-level jobs for which I interviewed. So I joined a nationally touring rock and roll band for a couple of years and waited tables on the side. After that, I attended graduate school intending to follow the same career path as several members of my family: teaching.

I subbed my way through graduate school and worked my way to becoming a high school English teacher in Framingham, Mass. English teachers have traditionally been some of the most resistant converts to networked technology; after all, free SparkNotes and copy/pasting text found on the internet are not exactly conducive to holding young readers accountable. But I was quickly convinced of the possibilities offered by the web to the English classroom. Reading, long a solitary activity, became social. Essay writing, once the only imaginable mode of assessment, became just one option in an ever-growing menu of project-based learning options. Knowledge of all kinds was now at the fingertips of virtually every student. My teaching approach was forever transformed, and I knew that I wanted to learn as much about technology as I could.

I left teaching for a year and pursued an Ed.M. in Technology, Integration, and Education at the Harvard Ed School. While there, I participated in several projects that allowed me to dust off my web skills and bring them up to date. I dove deep into PHP in order to make an augmented reality project function in the way that I knew I wanted it to work. I worked closely with HTML, CSS, and JQuery. I learned about the Open Source philosophy, which matched very closely with my personal and professional values as an educator.

After grad school, I worked as an Instructional Designer and fell in love with Drupal, a platform that solved the biggest challenge faced by any Instructional Designer: structuring, cataloging, and accessing content. The flexibility, extensibility, and raw power of Drupal allowed me to build a custom content management system with templating functionality that quickly generated custom web pages for use in my online courses. I did it without having to write much code (although from time to time I do enjoy getting down and dirty with the PHP), and through the Drupal community’s incredible contribution of modules, themes, and documentation, I was learning from some of the smartest people in the world. I started to imagine all of things that Drupal could make possible in education, and I was hooked.

Acquia University has helped me to take my Drupal skills to the next level, filling in the gaps in my knowledge and giving me a compass to follow toward true mastery of this incredible platform. Working at Acquia is one of the most exciting opportunities I have ever been given, and going through this program has launched my career into overdrive and expanded my professional options immensely. I wish all English majors and classroom teachers had the opportunity to get paid to learn Drupal!