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Faculty Q&A with Visual Technology Teacher Cavin Thuring

Authored By: 
James Vescovi, English teacher

Growing up in New York City, Cavin Thuring had always been proficient at math and physics and entered college planning to major in either—or both. After arriving at college, however, he changed course, setting his sights on a degree in linguistics, though eventually came to the realization that the life of a linguistics professor was not for him. He finally decided he wanted to major in art (at the time he was two courses shy of a B.S. in Mathematics and 4 courses of a B.S. in Linguistics).

“I’d always loved drawing and the arts. It just seemed inconceivable to me as a career of it.”

He graduated from Harvard College in 1989 with a degree in visual and environmental studies, relishing his class in drawing, design, and animation.  

Cavin returned to New York and began working for a small production company where he wore many hats: animation, video and film editing. His goal was to make enough money to enroll for a graduate degree at CalArts in Los Angeles. By the early 1990s, however, video and film technology was being revolutionized, moving from stand-alone dedicated machines to the desktop. Cavin ultimately found himself becoming a senior designer of  2D and 3D work on commercials. He survived a series of recessions and staff cuts in this fast changing business until 2003, when after being laid off, he became a freelance animator. That was his final stop before coming to The Beekman School.

What made you decide to become a teacher?

Ten years as a freelancer was a good stretch. I worked on some cutting-edge projects with some wonderful and not-so wonderful people. But it’s a tough business. I got tired the ever shrinking deadlines and quality of work. In addition, more and more of the more interesting jobs were being farmed out to places like India and Siberia while low value work remained. I decided a more productive and worthwhile use of my skills was to share my technical skills, as well as the academic subjects I was well versed in, with others.

Subjects like math and physics?  Why didn’t you make a career in either of those?

They came somewhat naturally to me, but I can’t say that I enjoyed them enough to build a career on them. I also loved my study of linguistics, but the prospect of joining the sheltered world of academia didn’t suit me.

What subjects did you begin tutoring in at Beekman?

Believe it or not, health and economics.

You sound like a polymath.

Let’s just say I love learning.

How did you get the technology job at Beekman?

Jason Malak, the computer teacher, moved to Myanmar with his wife. Maren Holmen, who runs The Tutoring School, thought I'd make a good replacement with my 23 years of experience in digital production and post-production.

What classes are you teaching?

Desktop Publishing, Computer Art, Web Design, and Audio Mixing Boot Camp. In the spring semester I am teaching Digital Illustration, Digital Imaging, 3D Production, 2D Motion Graphics, as well as the Audio Mixing Boot Camp.

How would you describe your teaching style?

My classes are all very project oriented. I think the way to reach students is by allowing them to manage their own project workflow, which stimulates a sense of responsibility without pressure.  I've found that when I am too involved, they stop thinking for themselves.  Left alone, they are keener to recall how to work a program and complete the project.  Of course they ask for help from time to time.  But I make sure I point the right direction without handing them the solution.

Some educators have criticized the overuse of technology in schools. How do you balance the truly educational with the solely entertaining?

Diving into any technology simply because it's available often leads to a pratfall in that time gets added to the process of teaching and learning without any increased value. I think technology is most successful when it offers something unique.  For example, the ability to have students individually interact with 3D images whether in chemistry or geology or astronomy offers an unprecedented level of absorption through exploration. Of course, schools must leave room for things like honing a student’s ability to read and analyze a piece of fiction. I think technology is used effectively with lessons that require the manipulation of 3D images to answer questions or lessons that require analysis and research online or via a specialized program.