“I love igniting a spark of passion. Once a spark is ignited, the curriculum simply becomes what is required to reach a desired goal,” Juwan Willis

Juwan Willis was an automotive instructor at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast in Pontiac, Michigan. His inspiration for teaching came directly from his own school experiences. After dropping out of high school, he returned to an alternative school, where a tenacious counselor convinced him he could make a living through his hobby of working on cars. At that school, he earned his first automotive certification, discovered his passion and started working as a full-time technician. For 20 years, he worked in the automotive industry, earning more credentials and managing a dealership. He returned to college to get his teaching credential. He used his ASE Master+ General Motors World Class Technician status, dealership management experience, and all other industry training as an educator to help his students find pathways to long-term success.

Willis designed his program to mirror a profitable and productive automotive industry partner. The onboarding process supported and trained new team members. Returning team members served as coaches and mentors. He reinforced that students were expected to grow their abilities in order to lead a company by modeling an exceptional work ethic through strong adherence to a workplace agreement. Willis used the 3C method of problem solving – understanding the Concern, identifying the Cause, and performing the best Correction after research. Willis aligned his curriculum with post-secondary and industry trends while embedding auditory, tactile, and visual models. His goal was to provide students professional experiences prior to graduation.

To build his instruction around current and expected needs in the automotive industry, he consulted an advisory board of alumni, service managers, service technicians, and dealer principals. He stayed connected with his industry partners by returning to their service lanes and garages to mentor dealership service managers and technicians.

Willis also ensured his students had access to work-based learning opportunities. His program internships provided students with a full year of working experience during the 11th and 12th grade, preparing students with certifications and investment after graduation. His program aimed to impact the trajectory of students while elevating their opportunities to earn higher wages. A 2018 graduate has reached General Motors World Class Technician status, mentored a 2022 graduate through his senior year, mentored the same 2022 alum to becoming an independent technician, and began mentoring a soon-to-be 2023 graduate.

Willis regularly shared his experiences with his students, gaining their trust and helping spark passions just as his teacher did for him. He consistently honed his coaching strategies to meet his students where they were and help them find a pathway to meet their desired goals.

Willis earned the 2022 Byrl Shoemaker/ASE Education Foundation Instructor of the Year award for coaching many students to ASE Independent Technician status within months of high school graduation.