Meet philosophy instructor John Preston

John Preston

For his first lecture ever teaching Introduction to Philosophy, John Preston had written what he thought was the perfect 45-minute lecture. However, when the time came to actually teach, he was nervous and rushed through it in 10 minutes.  

“I tried to emulate that style of sitting down and delivering this beautiful speech, and I realized that I could not read the students,” he said. 

Six years later, Preston teaches two sections of PHI 101, which is Introduction to Philosophy. He has been teaching at DMACC while he has been studying at the University of South Florida as a graduate student.  

The last academic hurdle he must overcome before officially being done with school is writing a 250-page dissertation. Yes, that is right, a 250-page paper before he can become a full-time instructor. Many college students reading this are thinking, “How on earth can someone be able to do that, let alone start on something that is this time-consuming?” Preston has some advice on how to handle huge projects like this. 

“I feel like with these kinds of projects, the problem is you are not ready to do it until you have done it, and it is already done. So, if you are writing a paper, the first 20-page paper you write is going to be terrible. Also, it will be very hard to write it. Make sure to do it in multiple sittings. My dissertation is spanning about 2-3 years now, I have done a little bit of work on it every day since,” Preston said. 

Preston explains how he knew he wanted to teach philosophy and what made him so interested in the subject: “Philosophy was a natural fit, and I was a computer science major when I was in college. It was not going very well, and then I took a philosophy class, loved it, and decided to keep taking courses,” he said.  

He also went on to say that philosophy opens people up to a lot of doors, but he chose to go with teaching because it just felt right to him. Preston has lived in Des Moines, Cedar Falls, New Mexico, and Florida while pursuing his education. He said that out of these places, Iowa was his favorite; He came back to Iowa because it feels more like home to him since he is closer to his family. 

“My wife and I chose to move back here when we could have lived anywhere. We chose to move back here because of the culture, people here are friendlier, and there are four seasons. It is hard to celebrate Christmas when it is 85 degrees outside. Plus, it is more meaningful because I am closer to my family. But if I could take the food from New Mexico and put it in Iowa, I would be set,” he said. 

He also explained how much he loves teaching at DMACC, especially since this is technically his first teaching job while still in school. He has had some difficulties as any first-time college instructor would have. 

After his first class that only lasted 10 minutes, he was able to figure out what he could do to make the overall experience better for him and the students. 

Preston realized that he just needed to take a deep breath and gather his thoughts. He quickly realized that after his first class was over that this was something that would serve him going forward.  

“I taught one section in DMACC in 2016 in between my master’s and my Ph.D. Applying to Ph.D. programs was a painful process of spending money, writing a lot, and telling people you are not good enough to go to their school. This was my first teaching job at DMACC, and I was nervous, but it affirmed why I was doing this through it all. It was the turning point I needed for my career path. This teaching experience was so rewarding, it made the next 5 years of studying philosophy worth it,” he said. 

Preston never looked back or second guessed himself and it reminded him why he was going through all these years of school. It was because he is passionate about the subject he specializes in, and he loves being able to connect with his students. He wants to be able to pass that knowledge and experience to potentially inspire them to take a path like his. He gave some advice for anyone who wants to study the field of philosophy. 

“When it comes to philosophy, there are a few routes you can take. You can do it individually, privately, you can be an avid reader and keep your day job. If you want to get into academia, which is what I am doing, there are different demands. Research in philosophy is very difficult, you must read a lot of texts and then argue with other people about what you read in those texts,” he said.  

“Philosophy opens you up to a lot of avenues, but I chose to go with teaching because I was committed to it and come from six generations of teaching in my family,” he said.  

For those interested, Preston instructs two sections of Introduction to Philosophy hybrid online here at DMACC.  

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