Previous Winners

Meet a Few of the 2023 Winners

Juwan Willis

Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast
Pontiac, MI
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“I strive to be an educator that reaches students where they are in order to inspire them to reach goals previously thought to be unattainable.”

Juwan Willis is an automotive instructor at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast in Pontiac, Michigan. His inspiration for teaching comes 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 transitioned into 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, and now uses 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’s program is designed to mirror a profitable and productive automotive industry partner. An onboarding process supports and trains new team members, and returning members serve as coaches and mentors. He reinforces that students are 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 uses the 3C method of problem solving – understanding the Concern, identifying the Cause, and performing the best Correction after research. Willis aligns his curriculum with post-secondary and current industry trends while embedding auditory, tactile, and visual models – his goal is to provide students professional experiences prior to graduation.

To build his instruction around current and expected needs in the automotive industry, he consults his advisory board of alumni, service managers, service technicians, and dealer principals. He stays connected with his industry partners by returning to their service lanes and garages to mentor dealership service managers and technicians, keeping his own practice current at the same time.

Willis also ensures his students have access to work-based learning opportunities. His program internships equal about $23,000 or more and a full year of working experience during the 11th and 12th grade, preparing students with certifications and investment after graduation. His program aims 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 expects to continue inspiring alumni to share their elevated success at their 5 year benchmarks and emphasizes that the most valuable lesson that they learn is to embrace the fact that they must do more to get more out of their career and in life.

He regularly shares his experiences with his students, gaining their trust and helping spark passions just as his teacher did for him. He consistently hones his coaching strategies to meet his students where they are 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.

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

Jodie Melancon

Agricultural Mechanics
Avoyelles High School
Moreauville, LA
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“My students identify the positives in each other's work and offer suggestions for improvement when necessary. I believe a major part of my job is to prepare my students to become model, productive, contributing members of society who can work well with others in the spirit of teamwork.”

Jodie Melancon teaches agricultural mechanics at Avoyelles High School in Moreauville, Louisiana – a calling she was deeply drawn to in 2011 after spending many years teaching part-time while also being self-employed. Having previously received her bachelor’s degree in vocational agricultural education, she returned to LSU 20 years later to regain her teacher certification while earning a Master’s Degree. She was offered the agriculture teacher position at Avoyelles High School, and to prepare for the school’s ag-mechanics focus, Melancon took welding classes at night and earned National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) certifications in Welding I and Carpentry I and II.

Melancon focuses on helping her students earn industry-based certifications and preparing them to enter the workforce directly after high school with skills that will earn them high wages. Using NCCER Core, Carpentry, and Welding curricula, she ensures her students learn in a classroom and shop environment that mimics the construction industry. Students participate in stringent safety training and are also tasked with keeping the shop clean and running up to OSHA regulations. Upperclassmen serve as safety officers and guide new students through complex processes, such as modeling how to use a circular saw to cut stair stringers.

Melancon regularly pairs more experienced students with those who need more guidance, encouraging leadership and teamwork. She also encourages problem-solving inside and outside the classroom. Earlier this school year, her students were called upon to fix the flagpole on the softball field, which needed to be ready for a tournament that weekend. Her carpentry class assessed the situation and were able to string a new rope and right the flagpole in time for the games to begin. Safety is a priority in her classroom; student “Safety Trainee Officers” perform safety checks such as inspecting tools to make sure they are safe for use and ensuring the area is free of debris and clutter.

Melancon’s instruction has had a profound impact on her students: in 11 years, 251 students have earned NCCER Core Certifications, 98 have earned NCCER Carpentry I Certifications, and 149 have earned Welder’s Helper status. Many have construction job offers before they graduate from high school. One of her former students, now a Blackhawk Pilot in the Louisiana National Guard and a diesel mechanic, learned welding in Melancon’s class and earned his certification. Currently, he is the only employee in his shop who can weld and is often called upon to do so. Melancon’s current students are also finding success while competing in FFA Carpentry and Welding contests – which helps them realize they have the necessary skills to compete, and helps build their confidence and self-esteem for the future.

Melancon has been recognized in both her school and parish school district as High School Teacher of the Year.

“I believe students have an unlimited potential to learn when they are placed in a nurturing learning environment where they feel safe, valued, and wanted.”


David Barresi

Frankfort High School
Frankfort, MI
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“My greatest joy is to help a student discover their own innate abilities and creativity. Students need alternative ways to learn through hands-on experiences found in project-based learning. By implementing multiple learning modalities and providing scaffolded instruction, the resultant skills can serve them well, whatever they choose to do.”

Grateful for the accomplished instructors who have influenced his own nearly four decades of teaching, David Barresi is a woodworking teacher at Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Michigan. While an instructor in Fine and Creative Woodworking at Rockingham Community College, Barresi was honored as “Teacher of the Year” His former program at Bellaire High School received the “Program of Quality Award” from Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society (MITES). Earlier this spring, Barresi was honored by MITES with the Paul Schilling Distinguished Service Award, given to those who make “significant contributions to promote the goals and objectives of industrial and technology education through service to the society”. Barresi’s students have won five state level MITES competitions, and have taken first place four times at the Association of Woodworkers and Furniture Suppliers (AWFS) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Barresi teaches multiple woodworking skills including furniture making, cabinet making and wood manufacturing. His classroom simulates an ongoing work environment, so students learn not only hands-on wood skills, but also key professionalism and management skills. Students fill out a timecard, which serves as a legitimate record of daily student accomplishments and production progress reports. An individual’s time card has specific categories and encourages the student to examine work productivity closely. Barresi focuses on instilling good communication skills and a strong work ethic and shares from his own personal and professional experiences to coach students. He embeds their projects with practical math and writing opportunities, but also illustrates the profit and financial value of the skills they are learning to emphasize that one does not need to strive for a college degree to achieve a successful and satisfying career.

The culture in his class is based upon cooperative learning and a hierarchy of knowledge. Students of differing experience levels are included in every class. In any classroom, students may be a facilities manager, a shop foreman, an experienced student or a beginning student. As a student progresses through the series of classes, they continuously build upon their previous knowledge, becoming more sophisticated while being given more responsibility. Students create all visual and written documentation relating to their projects.

Barresi utilizes a multifaceted learning process for students of all experience levels to go through all of the processes from preliminary concept of the product to the sale of the product. He provides full-size visual models, adequate class time for process demonstrations and written step-by-step instructions. Students create their own samples and for every product they work on; they create a scale drawing, a parts list, estimate costs, and complete a retail price worksheet, production timeline, and general procedures for them to explore and discover. If students struggle and have questions, they have a variety of options to turn to for assistance and Barresi uses the Socratic method so the class can learn and work together to find solutions. There are different roles and responsibilities for every department, and they collaborate to track their work process and costs and modify the production process in order to remain on time and profitable.

Barresi believes that the most valuable lesson he hopes to teach his students is to be accountable for the quality of one’s work. This accountability includes time management, organizing and monitoring work production, and thoughtful self-evaluation. To nurture autonomy and confidence in setting goals, students self-evaluate their own work with the use of a written rubric. He uses qualitative and quantitative assessments to help individuals utilize the collected data and the self-assessment of their work practices, so that he can individualize each student’s instruction and determine the amount of intervention necessary for the student to be successful and create customized plans moving forward.

At the end of the year, Barresi’s program participates in a school-wide “extravaganza” displaying students’ work, participates in multiple furniture shows/competitions and donates several furniture pieces to their annual fundraiser. This event gains media coverage so that the community can see how the student-centered program develops the skilled trades workforce and entrepreneurs for the future.

Barresi is an accomplished woodworker and furniture designer. He formed the Artisan Design Network, a group of regional craftsmen, and has had his pieces published in Fine Woodworking Design Book Three: 558 Photographs of the Best Work in Wood (1983), 397 Chairs (1988), 500 Chairs: Celebrating Traditional and Innovative Designs (1998), and Mind and Hand Contemporary Studio Furniture (2012). The most recent publication of American Woodworking and Furnishing Show (AWFS) Fresh Wood Design Book (2022) features the work of three of his students, and Barresi notes that he is “humbled that [his] teaching legacy lives on through my students and their extraordinary accomplishments”.

“Major educational reforms must emphasize and enhance career readiness and vocational enrichment within all secondary education programs. Not only do we need to provide opportunities for all students, but from a societal need, we have to address the income disparity and vanishing skilled labor force. At this time, five tradesmen are retiring as one new tradesmen comes into the profession.”