The Lightning Letter

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The Lightning Letter

The Lightning Letter

Meet Dr. Pugh!

An interview with one of James Lawson’s physics teachers.

Dr. Pugh is a teacher here at James Lawson High School who has taught a variety of subjects, from physics to computer science. I interviewed him about his experience in Lawson and additionally, his thoughts on computer science, one of the classes he began teaching this year.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.


How has your experience been In Lawson so far?

“It’s been great, the building is wonderful. The kids are pretty much the same as they always were which is also nice, but the building is just a great place to hang out and be. But I miss Hillwood sometimes, how the termites were holding hands, and that was the only thing keeping the building up.”


When did you start teaching and what did you teach?

“My first year of teaching was 1986 and I was teaching English in an inner city school. This was before cell phones, so everything was on paper. Those were some rough kids, they were tough. They lived in a tough environment. But I was never so loved by a group of kids as I was by those. Once they figured out you were on their side, they loved you. And I miss that sometimes.”


What do you enjoy about teaching computer science?

“I enjoy learning computer science. I hate to admit it, but I’m learning it as you are in many ways. And for somebody who grew up without computers – the world I grew up in didn’t have a computer anywhere – It makes me feel young again, to be learning something that’s so important to me in my life and I was so ignorant about and now I’m getting on top of it. It’s really cool.”


How would you define computer science?

“Computers can’t do a lot of thinking, but if you’re going to use them you have to know how they think. They’re about as smart as a cockroach and that’s about to change. Plus, AI is here. It’s not going away. It’s not a question of how we get AI out of our lives, it’s how we put AI in our lives, and not be the thing that runs our lives. And for that to happen we need to know computer science and I think learning computer science is more important than it ever was. Because computers are like electricity, it’s everywhere and nowhere now. You have a computer in your phone, you have a computer in your watch, you’re probably going to have one under your skin by the time you’re my age.”


Who should take computer science and why?

“Everybody, unless you’re going to live on a desert island for the rest of your life. You’re either going to run the computers, or they’re going to run you. And that’s the world you live in. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, and if you’ve got a problem with it, you’ve got a problem. But the world doesn’t care whether you’ve got a problem.

I would say everybody ought to take computer science if they can do it. And learn a little programming! There’s a lot of people who hate math, hate to write, but then they get to computer science and it’s like you hit a big red reset button. It doesn’t matter where you are coming from, you’re all starting from the same spot. I’ve had people who are terrible in everything else they do, just come in here and go, ‘Oh my god this is what I need to do with my life!’.

Frankly that’s not for everybody, and I wouldn’t want everybody to sit behind a computer for the rest of their life, but we’re really glad there are people who do that. It’s like, ‘what’s your favorite food’? Well, you’ve had it for the first time once, what’s your favorite subject? This might be it. If it is, you’re going to be rich for the rest of your life.”


What is something most people don’t know about you?

“I’m a competitive Olympic weightlifter. Last year, I set a state record. My daughter got me into it three years ago – she’s been doing it for ten years. And she said, ‘Pops, these are the muscles that are going to get you off the bed when you are ninety,’ and so she got me doing it and there’s nobody my age who does this.

The reason I got my state record is because I’m the only person crazy enough to have ever done it in state history in my age and weight class. But I’ve got two more competitions coming up, in October and November and I’m getting ready for those right now, so I am sore from head to toe. I don’t tell that to a lot of people but it’s true.“

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About the Contributor
Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith, Staff Writer
Nathan Smith is a senior at JLHS who enjoys art, writing, and reading. He likes to spend his time creating things he thinks others will be interested in.  
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  • M

    Ms. ElliottSep 22, 2023 at 9:32 am

    We are lucky to have Dr. Pugh! Great interview.

  • C

    Cindy SimpsonSep 17, 2023 at 4:18 pm

    Truly excellent article. The questions and the answers were so interesting that I couldn’t stop reading it! I think I might have to take a computer science class now!