Class Act: Chris George
His was an improvisational blueprint for academic success that some might even suggest does not compute.
Oh, but it does.
“Until you actually go and experience something, you don’t know if you love it or not,” said George, an instructor of computer information systems at Amarillo College. “I went to a computer sciences program and realized that I didn’t love programming as much as I loved tearing computers apart, getting my hands on the internal components and putting them back together.
“I went down a lot of rabbit holes because I wanted to do programming, then electronics, business, engineering, science. Of course, everything you dive into gives you experience and makes you who you are.”
George, whose overall grasp of computer technology includes particular expertise in cybersecurity, networking and digital forensics, grew up on a family farm in Hart, Texas, and started tinkering with computers at age 14.
“My uncle offered me some castoff computer equipment and of course I wanted it,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do on a farm.”
By age 16 George was working for the network administrator at Hart High School and pursuing dual credits through Amarillo College.
“I fell in love with computers and wanted to make them do things,” he said. “I wanted to fix them when they were broken, and I wanted to help people who needed help with their systems.”
He has been helping people with their systems ever since. He even joined an elite, invitation-only consortium of about 1,100 cybersecurity professionals in 2020 that focused on neutralizing worldwide threats to healthcare systems and critical infrastructure during the pandemic: The Cyber Threat Intelligence League.
George attended AC for a semester after high school, then went to three universities in succession – West Texas A&M, Wayland Baptist and Abilene Christian – amassing a slew of credit hours and a wealth of know-how. However, due to his penchant for switching gears, he had yet to complete a degree. During that same time, he held a number of tech-related jobs and opened his own computer business.
“I’m sitting there with 100 credit hours but no piece of paper in my hand that could propel me further,” he said. “I decided to go back to Amarillo College.”
George completed an associate degree in electronic systems technology at AC and was immediately encouraged by his dean to pursue an additional degree so that might share his vast storehouse of knowledge as a member of the faculty. So, in addition to managing his consulting firm, Route 66 Computer Company, he swiftly earned an online bachelor’s degree in business management from Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Soon after, he joined the faculty at AC.
“Amarillo College was always here for me,” George said. “That’s why I’m so excited to work at Amarillo College and why I always strive to make things better . . . I hope somebody will come behind me and make it even better.”
That somebody would be hard-pressed to improve on what George has brought to the AC table; having learned firsthand the value of a comprehensive education, he helped add valuable extracurricular opportunities to the menu.
George co-founded and currently sponsors the Bash Script Crazy technology club in which he has successfully coached students in numerous national competitions within the auspices of the Association of IT Professionals, the United States IT Collegiate Conference, and the National Cyber League. The club’s trophy case is brimming with meritorious hardware.
He also spearheaded AC’s popular Esports program, which in April of 2021 capped an undefeated season by winning a divisional GGLeagues Overwatch Championship.
“My philosophy is to teach the foundations but make sure the extracurriculars on the outside of that are relevant to today,” George said. “Through national competitions, I tell students, you can involve yourself in the industry. You don’t need to wait to finish college to go and get real world experience.
“You can supplement your education with real-world experience through competition, through study groups, and by being around people who share your interests and are on the same career paths as you are. On top of your daily lectures and reading and testing, you can do a lot of things to amplify your educational experience.
“I want all students to find what they really love to do and get to do it.”
What he, himself, loves to do is participate in retro video gaming, vintage computing, digital art, video production and golf (he is working toward obtaining his Professional Golf Association teaching credentials). And he especially loves to teach in the ever-changing world of computer information systems.
“Being a teacher is the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had,” he said. “I want to be a problem-solver and teach people how to solve their own problems.
“Every three years, people are changing IT jobs. It’s not because they don’t love that job, it’s because there’s just so much opportunity; what didn’t exist three years ago now exists today – the newest, hottest thing.
“Just because the book was written a year or two ago doesn’t mean our world hasn’t changed, and we always have to change with it. That’s what excites us so much in technology.”