This post was originally published on the ResponsiveEd Newsroom.

iSchool High – Lewisville (Class of 2013)

Kyle Katzen is now a data scientist at Affinity Answers, but he admits that he may not have been as successful if the teachers at iSchool High – Lewisville had not reignited and cultivated his drive for knowledge. Katzen says, “At all too many schools, there are barriers preventing us from going beyond class topics, but at iSchool, I was not only free but encouraged, to learn subjects in greater detail or in paradigms that resonated with me.”

Katzen says that he feels his curiosity to learn was stifled at the traditional school he attended before transferring. He says that there were two teachers at iSchool High who really helped shape his education. “Dr. Bourgeois helped me discover that it was up to me to learn for learning’s sake,” says Katzen. This helped prepare him for college where success is determined by more than just grades. Katzen also attributes his math-centered career to his high school math teacher Mr. Phillips. “He let me do personal research on tangential subjects in class. His projects were open-ended in ways that allowed me to explore novel concepts.” Katzen continues, “I had always been good at math, but his class was the first time I felt free to love the subject.”

Five years after graduating from iSchool High, Katzen earned his Master of Science from the world-renown business analytics program at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. “The most important factor to my success in that program was my drive to ask questions and explore concepts not explicitly taught,” says Katzen. “My high school teachers encouraged me to grow in ways there were best for me and that directly translated to success in higher education.”

Katzen’s advice for current high school students is, “University is mostly what you make of it. It is about how you utilize the resources you are given and about your own personal growth and development.” Katzen says, “With that said, you shouldn’t break the bank to go to one great university over a slightly less great one. At the end of your whirlwind of fun, stress, exams, growth, decisions that didn’t seem bad at the time, and learning, you have to enter the real world. Make sure that college prepares you to take on the world and doesn’t become a four-year vacation from life that you are paying for the next 20.”

Katzen pursued a career in data analysis after following his love of math and taking business and programming classes in his undergraduate studies. “I can’t imagine being in any other field. There are so many rabbit holes I’ve yet to go down and topics I’ve yet to explore,” says Katzen.

As a data scientist at Affinity Answers, Katzen spends most of his days developing and iteratively improving mathematical models that use social data to create audience segments for advertisers to buy for relevant advertising. “I also explain very technical concepts in intuitive ways to non-technical people and collaborate with them to create products that I know are buildable and that they know will lead the company in the right direction,” says Katzen.

A quote by Joe Rogan inspires Katzen to continue pushing his limits, “You have to overcome difficult issues to really understand the true potential of your mind and body.”

An important lesson that Katzen has learned throughout his education is that school and learning are related, but are not the same. “Some school structures and limitations of schools can obfuscate the joy of learning,” says Katzen. “Don’t let it fool you into believing there is no joy to be found.”

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