INSTRUCTOR SPOTLIGHT: APRIL 2022
INSTRUCTOR SPOTLIGHT: FEBRUARY 2022
APRIL 2022 Instructor Excellence Award:
Security Fraud Examiner, Security Specialist, and Technical Educator at New Horizons
Dennis Thibodeaux is a Certified Fraud Examiner, security specialist, and award-winning technical educator. Dennis began teaching at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in 2010 and during that time he has taught almost 500 weeks of cybersecurity certification exam prep classes for New Horizons Learning Group. His experience as an instructor and IT professional goes back more than 20 years and his professional background includes extensive experience as a practitioner in information security, business continuity, incident response, and related areas.
Dennis has taught college students Information Technology, Criminal Justice, and Paralegal Studies degree programs. He has instructed employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Princeton University, Defense Language Institute, IBM, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the United Nations, NASA, all branches of the U.S. military, and hundreds of other security-minded organizations in the private and public sectors. He is a member of several professional societies including ISACA, ASIS International, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Dennis is a world-renowned instructor and has consistently ranked among the top New Horizons instructors, receiving the prestigious annual New Horizons “Worldwide Excellence in Training Award” three times!
Dennis was working as an enterprise IT consultant to America’s biggest bank when he earned the Microsoft Certified Trainer credential in 1999, at the suggestion of an executive who liked the way he conducted employee training sessions.
At the time, Dennis had no intention of making a career in technical training, but opportunity knocked when he was laid off in early 2000. “I answered a help wanted ad from a training company seeking an instructor with Microsoft Certified Professional credentials. I was a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and I figured the job would be an easy way to generate some income while I looked for my next enterprise IT position. Twenty-two years later, I’m still a technology instructor. I get to make a positive impact in people’s lives, teaching (usually) online from the comfort of home. It’s a good fit,” says Dennis.
Dennis is extremely connected to his Cybersecurity training because it doesn’t just offer certification prep, it teaches techniques that produce better security in his students’ real-world workplaces. According to Dennis, “Education changes lives—technical education certainly changed mine. I will always go the extra mile for my students, doing whatever it takes to help them achieve their goals. I want to be a part of their success and give them the tools they need to excel in their careers.” Dennis can think of no better opportunity for a technical trainer to contribute to the good of society. “The bad guys are real. They’re getting smarter. And the work instructors are doing with cybersecurity training helps us level the playing field,” says Dennis.
Looking ahead to the future, Dennis plans to continue the important work he has been doing as an instructor. “I think the future of training is what I do in a typical workday in the New Horizons Online Live platform. I get to share expert guidance with a global audience from the comfort and safety of my office at home and I’m looking forward to continuing to do that for years to come.”
APRIL 2022 Instructor Excellence Award:
Al Wills is a Senior Technical Trainer at New Horizons at Logical Operations. His current training includes technical courses from CertNexus, Microsoft, and CompTIA. Al started working in adult education in 1993, moving to IT certification training in 1999, starting with Novell Netware 4.0. With a passion for cybersecurity topics, he has trained hundreds of students, providing them with CyberSAFE and CyberSec First Responder skills.
For Al, the process of becoming an instructor started in the early 90s. His employer at the time interviewed him for a new position that dealt with learning and deploying an industry-specific line of software. This involved installing computers with dial-up modems at the remote locations, then training end-users how to use the computers and the software. At the time, Al knew very little about computer hardware and software, but both captured his interest. Learning what he needed to know to be effective in his role was no small task, but he was up for the challenge. “After years of working in that position, the company sold, and I was in the 'what do I do next' place in my life.” Al reflected on many of the employees he had trained and remembered all of the “aha” moments he helped create. These moments meant so much to him that they helped him realize that he wanted to continue training. Three months later, Al was working with a training provider and he has been in the training industry ever since.
Senior Technical Trainer
New Horizons at Logical Operations
For years, Al focused on building his training expertise in Server and Client operating systems topics. Recently, he has been focused more on hot topics such as cybersecurity and cloud technologies. It’s in those areas where Al spends most of his time. Al attributes the reason for this big shift in topics to times changing. “When times change, so do customers’ training needs. These shifts that occur in the training world are inevitable and they provide valuable opportunities to broaden my skill set and knowledge on the topics I train,” Al says. “The biggest reason I teach the topics I do is that the landscape is constantly changing which allows me to continue to learn and instruct new technologies.”
Training isn’t just an occupation for Al. For him, training is a meaningful way to discuss topics that can be rather difficult to comprehend, especially when he comes across students fresh out of college or new to their positions at work. “Providing students with a sense of clarity and understanding of the big picture and how the cogs in the wheel work together is one of my passions in training.” Al also loves that with training, he is able to give students “take-aways” or a better understanding of their role, that can be put into production as soon as right after they leave class.
Throughout Al’s accomplished career as a trainer, he has reached many milestones, but to him, one of the most important occurred before he came on board at Logical Operations. Al spent 10 years contracting, meeting with customers, discussing skill gaps, then putting together a myriad of topics that were tailored to the clients’ needs. “At the time, there was the standard need for canned course delivery, but I excelled in the custom course offerings. To this day, I still get requests for custom training, which makes me feel proud that my work in contracting was, and still is, extremely valued.” In addition, Al is proud and honored to have been named the CertNexus Instructor of the Year for North America in 2021.
Looking ahead, Al is certain that training and teaching will be a part of his life for a long time. According to Al, “There is something special about learning a new topic well enough that you are able to teach it to other to people. I love that feeling! So, my plan for the immediate future is to stay current with my certifications and gain ones.”