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Published April 30, 2018
A University of Wyoming Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering professor has never seen an inspirational instructor such as Ryan Kobbe.
“Ryan puts more effort into his teaching duties than anyone I’ve seen. If you want to find Ryan at 5 a.m. on Saturday, he’ll be in his office preparing for next week’s classes,” the colleague says. “If you notice that his pants are dirty, it’s because he’s been sweeping up the structural testing lab to prepare for this afternoon’s class. The word for this is passion, which means suffering and love.”
With that passion and dedication for teaching, Kobbe has been named one of three recipients of the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award, established in 1977 by businessman John P. “Jack” Ellbogen, to “foster, encourage and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW.” Other Ellbogen winners are Amy Spiker, a School of Teacher Education senior lecturer; and Eric Teman, an assistant professor in the School of Counseling, Leadership, Advocacy and Design.
Kobbe has been an associate academic professional lecturer in the UW Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering since 2011.
As his direct supervisor since 2015, Anthony Denzer says he is familiar with Kobbe’s activities and accomplishments in the classroom, and has frequently observed him teaching and preparing for his classes.
“Some teachers win awards because they make their classes fun and easy. Ryan wins awards because he maintains the highest standards for both his students and himself,” Denzer says. “Ryan teaches difficult subjects and leads students to a higher understanding of the subject, while maintaining rigor, rather than simply delivering the material.”
He says the key to Kobbe’s success in the classroom is that he makes his students feel like they are on a quest together for that higher understanding.
“I say ‘his students’ because I know he feels possessive about them; he owns their successes and failures,” Denzer adds.
Jonathan Brant, a civil and architectural engineering associate professor, raves about Kobbe’s “unwavering commitment to his students and dedication to excellence in his profession.”
“I encourage anyone to seek out our current and former students,” Brant says. “It is on them who he has made lasting impressions and inspired them to reach new heights, both professionally and personally.”
Kobbe’s students echo the department’s faculty in their assessment of Kobbe.
“In the classroom, Ryan constantly changed his routine to keep students engaged and interested. One such strategy that influenced me was when he would break the class into groups and have the students work together to solve difficult problems,” Jacob Reed says. “Many times, these exercises would unexpectedly last the entirety of the class, but Ryan was committed to the process of working through problems together, sharing knowledge and working as a team.”
Student Sara Bashir praises Kobbe for making his classrooms gender-equal and welcoming to foreign-born students, such as herself.
“Being a female and a foreign student in engineering is challenging, and it is very important to me to have instructors like Kobbe who provide a comfortable class environment; this is something that keeps me and the other female and foreign students actively engaged and enables us to participate fully,” she says. “Kobbe also is well-known as an unofficial adviser to not only the civil and architectural engineering students, but also to all engineering students. His door is always open for help or even a small chat.”
Kobbe earned an M.S. (2005) degree in civil engineering from Washington State University and a B.S. (2003) degree in architectural engineering from UW.