Thesiscrazy!!!: Danny Heimler

Love Danny Heimler ’20 like the rest of us?? You’re in luck – we’ve got a WHOLE interview with him right here! Read after the jump to hear more about Danny, his three disciplines, and and the way they all culminated in his recently-completed education based thesis.


Danny Heimler ‘20, uses he/him pronouns and is a double major in Psychology and English, with a minor in Education. His thesis, in the Psychology department, focuses on how we measure the effectiveness of teaching methods through research and personal interviews with real teachers. His carrel is #336.


On where Danny is now:

“I’m in my sister’s room that I use as my office right now because I can’t work in my room. I’m home in San Diego.” 


Working title:

“I think it needs to change a lot. I want it to have a wittier precolon, but we’ll see. It’s ‘Through the Eyes of Educators: Definitions and Evaluations of Teacher Effectiveness.” 


On his topic:

“Basically I wanted to talk about what it means to be a highly qualified teacher, because a lot of legislation uses that term, but every state is able to define it however they want and in different ways. It’s always been difficult for me to wrap my head around how we have decided that there’s one way to be effective for teachers, or that we can just set out what the boundaries are of effectiveness. That’s what this thesis is looking into. How defined is effectiveness, are we able to define it, how do different stakeholders define it, and then what are the implications of that in terms of evaluating it.”


On how he thought of the topic:

“I thought of my topic by coming up with the best topic I could think of and then finding out that it had been done everywhere before. I wanted to write about improving the teacher workforce, so I wanted to talk about things like if having a higher degree works, or what exactly makes a stronger teacher. Once I kept finding studies about that I thought about more of how we conceive of the effective teacher.”


On his progress:

“Progress is pretty good. I mean, I was doing great until I had to study for this test a few days ago. But I really just have an intro and conclusion to do at this point, and about a week of hard editing, and then I’m done.”


On how Coronavirus affected his thesis:

“I just can’t as well. I think I’m taking more time to do lower quality work at times. I love to work in chunks, and that’s just not something I can do because I’m in California, so I’ll have a class at 1:00 pm, like in the middle of my day, and then I’ll have meetings with professors. So I’m working in like two hour blocks, and that’s just not so effective for me.”


On his current mental state:

“Um… It varies. Sometimes it’s just complete despair and overwhelm, but right now, it’s intense motivation, gung ho, I need to finish this, because I think as long as I keep moving forward I won’t notice how overwhelmed I am.”


On his most upsetting thesis experience:

“My whole thesis research revolves around observing and getting interviews from teachers in order for us to include their voices in the discussion of what effectiveness means. I had this one teacher, it was the interview of my life pretty much, like the interview of my academic career. She was crying, and telling me these stories that I hadn’t heard anyone talk about before; she had completely like blown up the idea of what a teacher could be in the classroom. As I was transcribing it, I realized that the phone had cut off, and I literally missed all the good aspects of that interview, which was the craziest interview I had ever been a part of. That was probably the saddest thesis experience. I recreated some of what she said, but it’s not the same. That’s why we have a discussion section of our thesis, so that you can say the ways you lightly fucked it up. That’s an important part of research, nobody’s publishing a study without having a few mistakes, so that’s part of this too.”


On his favorite form of procrastination:

“Probably like texting my friends really intriguing topics that they can’t get out of. I’ll try to message them something interesting enough that they have to talk to me about it, so that now all of a sudden I’m part of a good conversation and I can’t write my thesis.”


Plans for after he turns his thesis in:

“I’m going to stand in my backyard and have my parents shoot champagne at me while I’m like holding a mini printed version of it maybe, so I can hold it while they spray me with champagne.”


His advice for future thesis writers:

“A lot of people like to say to start early and things like that, and I think that’s really great, but what’s most important for me is having really meaningful check ins with your thesis advisors when you can. And remembering what path you want your thesis to be on. The more people I’ve talked to about it, the more people have weighed in about the things they want to see out of it, but also it’s really important to remember why you started the project, and why you’re taking it on.”


On his favorite part of his thesis:

“Part of my thesis is using a method called ‘portraiture’ which is kind of like the intersection of my English and Psych majors. You kind of create a compelling story about the teacher’s practices in the classroom, and use them to explain how they’re effective, and talk about different educational philosophies they hold and stuff like that. It’s so cool for me because I can actually see how all the teachers are different. It can be a Psych/Education thesis but I can also just write creatively, and that’s really fun for me.”


If his thesis were a song/TV show/movie:

“It would be like one of those classic teaching movies where I feel like someone has their fist up in the air, like a teacher power kind of movie. Like Dead Poets Society, but I feel like that one’s a little too glorifying of teachers in kind in a strange way, like they can solve everything. But I love those movies that are kind of like trying to tell people how important teachers are and make them recognize a teacher’s voice in conversations about their profession. This would be one of those. But also like kids goofing around. A lot of my thesis is watching kids say and do the craziest things.”


His most used word/phrase:

“I think the word ‘effective’ is probably going to show up in my thesis over a thousand times. Some pages I use it like four times a page and it’s going to end up being a hundred pages.”


A question he wished we asked:

“Maybe just like ‘what about my thesis is personally fulfilling,’ and I think the answer I’d give to that is it reaffirmed my desire to be a teacher. Being a part of this thesis reminded me why I’ve always respected educators so much and why I want to be one one day.” 


Theses Feces:

“Are you asking everyone that question? I don’t know what to tell you. I’d love to like, play ball, but I don’t really have anything. I’ve been about as stressed as I’ve always been writing this thesis, so…”


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