Autar Kaw wanted to be an airline pilot when he was a young boy growing up in India.

As an adult, Kaw didn't reach that goal. However, he is soaring in his career as an educator.

A 25-year veteran instructor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Dr. Kaw has been named the U.S. Professor of the Year.

"It was about a half an hour before class," Kaw said of learning of the recent honor. "And I was shocked."

A mechanical engineer professor, Kaw's image is being featured on a billboard along Interstate 275 near campus. The award, the highest honor an undergraduate instructor can receive, is sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Three other professors in the United States also were honored. The other winners are Todd Pagano (Rochester Institute of Technology), Christy Price (Dalton, Ga.  State College) and Lois Roma-Deeley (Paradise Valley, Ariz., Community College).

Kaw's students say he is creative, innovative and always finds ways to keep students engaged.

"Overall, honestly even before he was nominated, I just felt like he was one of the best professors I've ever had," said student Michael Cohen.

Kaw creates online videos that help take students through problems. He also interacts on his own blog and answers student questions on Twitter. Previously named the best professor in Florida, Kaw studied in India and received his Ph.D. from Clemson University.

"I've been teaching the same course for about 23 years," Kaw said. "(And) I still do remember what I felt when I was a student when I took that class."