“Watching the students from my program walk the stage at graduation, contact me after graduation updating me on their lives including their college, careers and families—these success stories make the heartache, frustration, long hours and tears worth it in the end.”

Wayne Violet graduated from the program he now teaches. After high school, he earned an associate degree in automotive technology from the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville while working as an apprentice at the local GMC, Buick and Pontiac dealership. Violet’s plan was to stay in the industry, leading him to pursue a bachelor’s in business administration, serve as a master technician and become assistant service manager at a Chevrolet and Cadillac dealer. His manager there tipped him off about an opening at his old high school.

“I came into teaching mid-year with no prior teaching experience which is an intimidating way to be baptized into education,” Violet recalled in his prizewinning application.

Violet took over a two-year program that provides more than 1,000 hours of instruction, thanks to block scheduling. His is one of the rare programs in Maryland offering a true dealership experience to students. Students accept donated vehicles and either repair them to sell or to head to auction or, alternately, to prepare the vehicles to be scrapped. The shop operates like a used car dealer, ensuring vehicles are in good condition to resell.

A cooperative work program allows Violet’s students to begin their careers while attending school, including job shadowing and paid apprenticeships even if they are under 18. For the past 10 years, at least half of Violet’s seniors have received cooperative work placements. Violet also supports his students to qualify and pass the nationally recognized Maintenance and Light Repair Entry Level Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Foundation exam, achieving a 90 percent pass rate for his students.

Violet keeps up his own qualifications as well. After becoming a teacher, he received a master’s in career education from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, graduating with honors. He holds 12 ASE certifications and attends training courses year-round to provide students with a competitive education, and he was recently certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid and is a suicide prevention first responder. Violet was a finalist for the 2019 Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“The automotive industry is rapidly changing with new technologies constantly being developed. We live in an exciting time with the fully autonomous car just around the corner. This level of technological sophistication requires constant training and a willingness to learn.”