Salem High School teacher awarded $100K for teaching excellence

Roanoke Valley News

SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — Salem High School teacher Derek Wray received a $100,000 check for his teaching excellence in his automotive and diesel technical class as part of a surprise announcement on Thursday.

Wray was one of just three grand prize winners of the ‘Harbor Freight Tools for Schools’ prize, receiving $30,000 for himself and $70,000 for his teaching program. More than 700 skilled trades teachers from 49 states applied for the prize, but Wray was the only automotive instructor to win the grand prize.

“This is tremendously humbling,” said Wray. “I feel like if I can do right by my students and give them the most up-to-date training and the most professional and personal education that I can give them, then the results will be measured by their employment and their successes in their own careers.”

Wray has been teaching at Salem High School for the past 17 years.

He creates real world experiences for his students by implementing an advisory board for his class made up of service directors, shop owners, managers, technicians, former students, and administrators from the school. Students run the advisory board meetings as a way to build leadership skills.

Wray says he plans to use the money to get his students a Tesla to teach them how to work on electric cars. It is projected by 2035 that cars will move away from fossil fuels and to electric.

One of those students is senior Jayden Hart, who says his teacher is well-deserving of the award.

“If there’s anything I can say to him, it’s that he’s by far been the greatest teacher I could have ever had and to keep on doing what he’s doing,” expressed Hart.

As for Hart, he’ll be attending the Nascar Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC which is Wray’s alma mater.

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