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Taking Another Chance


Taking Another Chance

Dear fellow skilled trades instructors,

My name is Joel Massarello and I am a 2019 winner of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

I originally did not plan on submitting an application in 2019. I had been a finalist in 2017, but in 2018, I didn’t make it to the finalist round. I was discouraged in 2018 and only entered the 2019 contest at the urging of a student’s parent, who thought I had a good chance of winning based upon her son’s experience in my class.  I tried to explain to her how I did not win in the past and I did not think I could top what I had previously submitted, especially knowing how competitive my fellow automotive instructors are in Michigan and around the country.

After some reflection on what this mother had said about my program and her son’s experience, I decided to take another chance and change how I worded things into more of a story  and how my class had impacted many students over the course of my career.   Of course, I did stick to facts as well as, pointing out specific successes of students as often as possible. I made sure that I was very detailed in all of my responses in order to make my experience come alive for the judges.

If you’re not sure whether to apply again this year, I would encourage you to look back at what you have written in the past and use that as your starting point. Then dig deeper and see how you can bring your story alive in the timeline of your career. Share your students’ accomplishments, as that is your greatest asset, along with how your program was a catalyst for many of your students. Share stories of what parents or other school personnel have shared about how you made an impact in the lives of their students. Talk about what your former students are doing now and how their journey through your class set them up for their present career.

I wish you all the best of luck for a win in 2020! Don’t get discouraged—consider this an opportunity to improve yourself and your program for a winning situation for all. You can apply today at


Joel Massarello

Automotive Instructor

Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northwest (Clarkston, MI)

2019 Prize for Teaching Excellence Winner