Outstanding Instructor of the Year

Outstanding Instructor of the Year

Wood Finishing Technology Instructor Mitch Kohanek

Mitch Kohanek at 2013 True Blue GalaMitch Kohanek is a wood finishing legend. Mitch’s graduates are the best professional finishers, furniture restorers, spot repair artists and pre-finishers in the industry. Mitch has been teaching the fine art and science of wood finishing at DCTC for more than 34 years. Situated on the college’s main campus in Rosemount, Minn., his National Institute of Wood Finishing features the only certified nine-month Wood Finishing Technologyprogram on the planet.

A member of the American Institute of Conservation, Mitch interned at the Smithsonian Conservation and Analytical Laboratory in Washington, D.C. He has dedicated his professional life to debunking the mystery surrounding the restoration, preservation, beautification and repair of wood artifacts and objects. A key consultant for the finishing industry, he has lectured across the country and authored articles for prestigious journals such as American Woodworker and Fine Woodworking. He is also a board member for WoodLINKS® USA, a partnership between the wood industry and education to provide the skilled workers needed to stay competitive at the entry and middle management levels. Mitch was previously named Outstanding Instructor of the Year in 2002.

Mitch with grandchildren at 2013 True Blue GalaMitch makes sure that students in his program master the language of the contemporary wood finisher, which means learning terms like aliphatic hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, ketones, esters and glycols. In fact, as students enter the National Institute of Wood Finishing’s state-of-the-art laboratories, they are greeted by a sign saying, “Warning: Wood Finishing Spoken Here.”

Outfitted with newfound terminology, Mitch’s students soon discover the chemical secrets of wood itself—the material that grows at the heart of their profession. They rapidly grasp the underlying chemistry of the various dyes, stains, fillers, sealers and topcoats they apply to enhance the appearance and feel of wood, leveraging that knowledge to better utilize all the brushes and spraying equipment related to those applications.

Just as important to wood finishing is the art that thrives on the science. For the average consumer, the artistic beauty of a wood piece is all they ever see. Mitch emphasizes the importance of color in wood finishing and the artistry involved in getting the color just right. That blend of art and science is what makes wood finishing so unique and what inspires Mitch’s students to bond as a group in his labs. They are naturally passionate about finishing wood and everything that goes with it.

Mitch teaching at at Fort Snelling’s Memorial ChapelMitch continually counsels his students to absorb everything they can from the DCTC program, but he also tells his graduates to adapt to the time-honored practices of their new employers. Although he loves the actual practice of wood finishing, he is totally committed to teaching what he knows. He is especially moved by students who make life-changing decisions for the chance to enroll in his program. Many of his students come from across the country, leaving their homes and uprooting their families in the process.

Mitch feels a deep responsibility toward his students. A wood-finishing network nearly 35 years in the making helps him hold up his end of the deal. He has more jobs than people to place and can put graduates to work in any state they can name. What he finds really interesting is having past graduates calling up to hire newer graduates because they need good people right from the source.

DCTC is proud to recognize Mitch Kohanek as the 2013 Outstanding Instructor of the Year. His dedication to his craft and most of all to his students serves as a model to the entire campus community.

Mitch Kohanek’s Outstanding Instructor of the Year Acceptance Speech

For more information about the Wood Finishing Technology at DCTC, contact:
  • Mitch Kohanek
    Wood Finishing Technology Instructor
Mitch with Don Williams, senior furniture conservator at the Smithsonian Institution