Teaching Award

Jeff Gulbronson - VP Education
Posted on: November 20, 2016

Every term, an instructor, lecturer, or professor in the faculty of Engineering who has done an outstanding job is selected to receive the Waterloo Engineering Society’s Teaching Excellence Award. This award is given to an instructor who has exhibited immense dedication to ensuring their class’ success, has employed unique and unconventional teaching methods, and has allowed opportunities for experiential learning in their classes. The recipient of this award is selected based on the quality and quantity of student nominations as well as data gathered from course critiques. This term, we are proud to announce that the winner of the Engineering Society’s Teaching Excellence Award is Christopher Kohar.
When asked about the course he is currently teaching (MTE 204 – Numerical Methods), Mr. Kohar mentions that it’s generally regarded as “just another math course” that the students are required to take to finish their degrees. He says he hopes to teach his students “something they can apply tomorrow”, and it shows. All his nominations bring up a 6 hour help session that he held before the midterm exam, that continued past midnight into the day of the midterm. They also mention that Mr. Kohar is known for extending weekend help sessions and is always willing and excited to answer any student questions, within or beyond the scope of the course.
To make his course as relevant and interesting as possible, Mr. Kohar uses examples that are “tied to [his] own personal experiences in the Mechatronics program, co-op and industry experience within the engineering field.” Mr. Kohar goes on to talk about his “open-ended design projects where the students pick a project area that they want to explore with Numerical Methods”, which are also noted as a highlight by students enrolled in the course. He notes that this allows students a greater sense of ownership over their projects, allowing for more growth and learning in the process.
 Mr. Kohar also states that the most important aspect of teaching to him is mutual respect. He says that “respect is a two-way street and it is earned” and that “students are not ‘just a number’”. He mentions his own time in the engineering program, saying: “I still remember what it is was like to be debugging spaghetti code, soldering circuit boards with no sleep, and building projects hours before the due date”, and then continues to talk about how he’s always willing to sit down with his students, help them make it through stressful situations, and remind them that everything is going to be all right.
 When asked about his inspirations, Mr. Kohar had a lot to share with us. Firstly, his father, “a graduate of Waterloo Mechanical Engineering (1977), who introduced me to the world of engineering and taught me that if I do a job, I better do it right, and not to worry about the outside noise.” He went on to also mention his faculty mentor Professor Sanjeev Bedi and supervisor Professor Kaan Inal, both of whom showed great support for his teaching. Finally, Mr. Kohar mentioned the Mechatronics Engineering students themselves, who have taught him more about himself than they will ever know.
 Congratulations Mr Kohar, and thank you for your contributions to the faculty! Christopher Kohar’s name will be added to the Engineering Society’s Teaching Excellence Award Plaque located outside of the C&D in Carl Pollock Hall (CPH). If you have a instructor that you feel has done an exceptional job in making one of your classes engaging, interesting, and all around great, don’t forget to nominate them next term for this award! Nominations are accepted every term!