Faculty member receives 2018 Director's Award from Red Hat Academy

September 20, 2018

AVONDALE, AZ, Sept. 22 -- In September, Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) received the 2018 Red Hat Academy Director’s Award at the Red Hat North America Training Partner & Instructor Conference in Las Vegas.

Red Hat, Inc. was founded in 1993 and is a multinational software company that creates open source software products for the enterprise community. They are best known for being a major vendor of the Linux computer operating system in America.

Tracy Baker (RHCSA, CCNA, CCNAS, A+, Linux+, CRLA), a faculty member of EMCC’s Instructional Computing Division -- and leader of EMCC’s Red Hat Academy -- received the award for work he did to convert Red Hat’s enterprise training materials to those more suitable for use in academia. “I rewrote specific Red Hat content that we teach in several Computer Information Systems (CIS) courses on campus to create measurable assessments that I could use as a college professor,” Baker says.

Baker’s process involved converting over forty end-of-chapter and comprehensive review labs to create built-in assessments for student training that did not exist in the corporate environment. The need was evident to him immediately. “I quickly discovered that I really needed periodic, measurable assessments built into the Red Hat labs,” he tells us. “One of those reasons,” he adds, “is that I had too many students learning how to follow directions instead of using their critical thinking skills to overcome the labs’ challenges.”

Rewriting the labs is something Baker began during the fall of 2016. In 2017, he passed the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) professional certification. “I did this for my students,” he says. “I don’t need it for my job or to advance my career. By taking the test, I found out what was on the test, how it was administered, and what it would take to pass it.”

He started using the first revisions of the newly rewritten labs during the latter part of the fall 2017 semester and says that he is seeing an increase in student understanding of the Red Hat Linux operating system and how to administer it. He notes that his enhancements have made the coursework more challenging and rigorous.

“Students are learning,” he says, describing the value of his methods. “They aren’t simply following instructions. This is evidenced by our students getting more and more internships and jobs in the industry because they know what they’re doing. Employers are letting us know this as well. EMCC students are better prepared than they were in the past and that is why I do what I do -- what better feeling is there than knowing you’ve helped another person improve their life?”

While he’s thrilled to have received the award, Baker is equally excited to grow his programs. “I do get a warm, fuzzy, feeling for being recognized for the work I did. However, I’m not finished. There are still revisions to be done (my students seemed to be very skilled at pointing out my typos and other errors). My next major project is to create more critical thinking and problem-solving labs for the Red Hat Academy. Employers, especially ones in IT, love people with good problem-solving skills.

Providing students with the best education possible is at the forefront of Baker’s daily mission. “As trite as this may sound,” he says, “I truly begin each day by asking myself what can I do that is best for my students. I have worked in the industry for nearly 30 years in various IT capacities before becoming a faculty member at EMCC. My wife tells me that I’m training students to ‘take my job (the job I used to do)’ and I always concur -- if I’m not doing that, then I’m not doing my current job as a teacher and mentor, correctly.”

Baker thanks Jim Nichols, Tom Polliard and Eric Eckert for their suggestions and ideas that helped him facilitate this project, as well as Jonathan Heard who helped test the changes.