Mohamed Salem: "I feel like a big brother to my students."
FRESNO, CA — It’s easy to mistake Mohamed Salem for another hvacr student on the first day of school. After all, he’s a student himself and at only 28 years old, Salem is just about the same age as the students he teaches in his air conditioning, refrigeration, and electrical classes.

However, unlike his students, this instructor is a nine-year hvacr industry veteran, pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, as well as working in the field as the owner of a contracting company.

Salem, who teaches the two-year Associate of Science Degree program in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration at San Joaquin Valley College, has been awarded an honorable mention in The News’ “Best Hvacr Instructor” contest.

Salem said his youth works to his advantage in the classroom.

“I feel like a big brother to my students,” he explained. “My students are more comfortable with me and get more out of the classes. It’s important to be one of them, not above them.”

Salem is dedicated to helping his students succeed and is accessible in and out of the classroom.

“Being a teacher takes non-stop dedication,” said Salem.

He gives out his home phone number so present and former students can reach him any time.

“A good instructor establishes a good relationship with their students,” he said. “If a student likes you, they’ll do the best job they can for you.”

One student who nominated Salem noted, “One thing I like about him is that he can relate to us and to our goals in real life. He makes the class a very fun place to learn, and has helped us not only to become good technicians, but he inspired me to further my education.”

One of the biggest challenges Salem said he faces as an instructor is helping students gain confidence in themselves. The college requires a student to pass four separate certification tests before they can graduate.

When he first started teaching, Salem recounted an experience where he spent a lot of extra time, working one-on-one with a troubled student to help him pass his APA certification test. On graduation day, the student firmly shook Salem’s hand, looked at him with tears in his eyes, and said, “Thank you.” Salem said he almost cried himself and will never forget how rewarding it felt to be able to impact someone’s life like that.

“Knowing you helped someone understand something they couldn’t get on their own, makes you feel good,” he said.

Salem participates in ongoing hvacr-related educational and training seminars to familiarize himself with the latest technological advancements in the field. And he keeps his class motivated by bringing in special guest speakers, going on field trips, and by getting the class involved in repair projects.

Publication date: 09/10/2001