#givingback with Ryan and the Academy of Art & Design

In our series #giving back at SalesPage, we highlight the different ways that members of our team are involved in their communities. One of our core values is passion, and we believe in the power of our people to be a positive force within their team and community.

February team feature:

Ryan Heaton

Our team member feature this month is Ryan Heaton, a Solution Development Intern at SalesPage. Ryan is finishing his BA in Computer Science this spring at Grand Valley State University. He combines his academic and professional skills by teaching programming to young students at the Academy of Art & Design in Grand Rapids.

The Academy of Art & Design is a community hub that offers programming for K-12 students. Their offerings include language, art and design, performance, and the STEAM curriculum. The Academy was founded by and primarily caters to the Chinese-American population of Grand Rapids, but welcomes students of all backgrounds.

A friend recruited Ryan to the center in summer 2020. By this time, many K-12 schools had switched to virtual learning in the wake of the pandemic. Traditional art and performance classes are difficult to direct virtually. As a result, demand for technology-based classes increased. Ryan is the resident computer expert, teaching Scratch (a game design coding system geared towards children) and Python for intermediate students. His approach guides students step-by-step through coding processes while introducing real-world concepts in age-appropriate ways.

Trying new things and having fun are the themes of Ryan’s teaching style. For example, he doesn’t mind when students interrupt his lessons with their own ideas and questions. He says, “When they’re suggesting things on their own, you know you have their interest!” He remembers being fascinated by emerging game design and programming technology as a kid, and was inspired by his own teacher to pursue it as a career. Seeing that same spark in his students is the most rewarding part of his experience, and he has as much fun as they do in the process.