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Salem High School teacher wins $100,000 prize for teaching excellence

Out of more than 700 applicants, Derek Wray is one of three grand prize winners

From repair shop foreman to award-winning teacher -- that’s the story of Derek Wray.

SALEM, Va. – From repair shop foreman to award-winning teacher - that’s the story of Derek Wray.

In 2004, Wray took a call asking him to become the automotive teacher at Salem High School, a role he still fills to this day.

On Thursday, he became a grand prize winner of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. As a grand prize winner, Wray receives $30,000 for himself and $70,00 for the school’s program.

“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. It also can be measured by the fact that companies will hire my students again and again, so we can repeat the process year after year,” Wray wrote in his prize application.

At Salem High School Wray has created an advisory board for his class to help guide his training program and shape the curriculum. The board is made up of service directors, shop owners, managers, technicians, former students, and administrators from the school.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was created in 2017 to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools.

Out of more than 700 applicants, there were three grand prize winners and 15 $50,000 prize winners.


About the Author:

Kamryn Buza joined 10 News as an intern in September 2021.