Page 20 - Salem Magazine Spring 2016
P. 20

Our Schools
  The humble Chairman of Salem High School’s Trades and Industrial Career and Technical Education Department is responsible for more than 400 students each year who learn the all-important skills of auto body, auto service and welding. One of the nation’s former dumping grounds for students who weren’t headed to a four-year college, career and technical education has now become a desired location for many in high schools across the country.
 “For years there was a dividing line between students who participated in career and technical programs and students who were pursuing a more academic educational program, but in the last five years that has changed dramatically,” he says. “I’m now seeing kids who want to be here for the right reasons, plus our administrators in Salem have really made this a priority.”
“Derek’s leadership has transformed this department and, as a result, students have multiple National Certification opportunities, and Salem’s trades and industrial classrooms closely match the environments that students will face as they explore career opportunities in these industries,” says Curtis Hicks, Salem’s Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.
Wray graduated from the Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Texas in 1996 where he earned his Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Automotive and Diesel Technology. He began teaching at Salem High School in 2006 as an Auto Body Instructor after spending two years at Burton. Between graduation and the start of his teaching career, Wray accumulated a decade’s worth of hand-on experiences diagnosing and repairing vehicles at the Shelor, Pinkerton and Berglund dealerships in the area.
Wray’s family was on hand for his award ceremony in March.
“We really try to focus on life skills and instill a work ethic in our students because I want them to understand that this is a job and the more they apply themselves the more knowledge they can take with them,” he says.
businesses and organizations in the region. Many of these connections have paid direct dividends with students getting advanced training and high paying jobs right out of high school.
Wray says he is extremely proud of the relationships and partnerships Salem High School has cultivated with individuals,
“Getting jobs for students who want to do this for a living is incredibly satisfying and many people are now realizing that having a skill is an extremely valuable way to go,” he says. “Whether it is cars or any kind of trade, it’s paying good money.”
 Wray and some of his students diagnose an engine block.
Wray has earned a number of industry certifications, he wrote a book in 2010 and he contributes online automotive articles for, and, not surprisingly, he makes up for his lack of traditional classroom training by rolling up his sleeves and working.
“I think I often have to work harder because I don’t have the formal training,” he says. “I am always evolving, changing and trying to find the most productive way of getting the information to the kids.”
In 2015, the Salem High School Automotive Program was listed in the Top 20 in the nation by “Tomorrow’s Technician” magazine. Salem was one of only three high schools to make the list alongside community colleges and post-secondary technical schools.
“Derek is a quiet and humble leader who sets an example for his students by his dedication, team work and character,” says Scott Habeeb, Salem High School Principal. “He never seeks accolades, but his impact on students, his colleagues, and our community is worthy of them.”
Wray and his wife, Paige, reside in Roanoke County with their four children. Receiving this honor and knowing that his first job in the automotive industry was washing cars in Oakland, California, is nothing short of amazing.
“I sincerely appreciate this and it is truly unbelievable,” says Wray. “I try to put forth a relentless effort for these kids and I appreciate the administrators picking up on the countless hours we put in to make success happen for the students.”
SPRING 2016 |

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