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February 10, 2017

Graduate student earns prestigious teaching assistant award

Written By: Katie Leung

Industrial and systems engineering PhD student Raed Al Kontar has earned a UW-Madison Teaching Assistant Award for Early Excellence in Teaching. The award, presented by the Graduate School, recognizes exceptional teaching by graduate students across campus and throughout various departments.

Raed Al Kontar accepts the UW-Madison Teaching Assistant Award for Early Excellence in Teaching.
Raed Al Kontar accepts the UW-Madison Teaching Assistant Award for Early Excellence in Teaching.

Al Kontar, a PhD student from Lebanon, joined the department in 2014 and currently is a member of the Laboratory for Manufacturing Process Analysis and Control under Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Shiyu Zhou. Al Kontar is the teaching assistant (TA) for ISyE 605, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, and will be the full instructor for ISyE 510, Facilities Planning, in fall 2017.

For Al Kontar, being a TA means being at the forefront of a student’s learning experience and making that experience as enjoyable as possible by not only being a good TA but also a mentor.

“I wanted to be a TA who is a good teacher as well as a good friend,” says Al Kontar. “If I did not worry about being a good friend to my students, it could be very easy for me to blindly solve a problem or show how to use specific software. However, I have realized that interacting with students is a crucial factor for good teaching. Interaction involves listening, being responsive, and being accessible.”

This interaction also serves to instill passion in his students for the class material and applying those lessons and that passion to solving real-world problems.

“I believe that good teaching is about passion,” says Al Kontar. “Students can feel the passion of the instructor or the TA. When I was sitting in the classroom listening to a TA or a professor, I was able to see how passionate he/she is. Passion is contagious. If a TA is passionate about the class, students will be inspired and motivated.”

Al Kontar was certainly motivated as a student, as he clearly remembers one TA who exemplified creating an exciting and inspiring learning environment.

“I mostly remember how passionate a TA was about the class material,” says Al Kontar. “I always thought that if someone is that passionate about something, it should be worth studying.”

Al Kontar’s research focuses on making sense of data and using it for better decision making—specifically in cloud-enabled smart service-systems. After defending his dissertation, Al Kontar hopes to continuing teaching as a full time professor. Read more on the Campuswide Teaching Assistant Awards.