BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Joel Massarello, who teaches automotive technology at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northwest in Clarkston, recently won second place in the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
In the process, Massarello won $35,000 for the program as part of $1 million awarded nationally. He’ll also receive $15,000 personally.
Massarello said his practice keeps him up to date on trends and practices in automotive technology.
“Many real-world automotive repairs pose different challenges on different vehicles, and it gives me an opportunity to stay sharp and current with what the demands are in the industry,” he said.
Not on the college track in high school, Massarello considered dropping out. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety, health and fire science as well as an associate degree in applied science and automotive technology, setting himself up for a promising career in the industry.
Then, while working as a supervisor at a Caterpillar equipment dealership, Massarello heard that the auto instructor at OSTC-NW was retiring midway through the academic year. Massarello’s first day was March 31, 2003.
Once he took the position, Massarello designed a curriculum focused on students’ futures. At the beginning of the automotive program, students meet business partners, immediately learning about the careers possible through automotive coursework. To master the skills they need for those jobs, Massarello’s students work on donated vehicles and equipment before working pro bono on vehicles for low-income families, the elderly, disabled people and even fellow students in need.
Students earn Automotive Service Excellence certifications, their mechanic’s licenses and other certifications, along with dual enrollment credits. They explore all the career options open to them, including by researching hiring notices in the automotive industry to see how much experience and education certain positions require and how much they pay, including some that garner well into the six figures.
“It is a constant reminder to all students that the work done in high school is going to help them realize their purpose,” Massarello said.
Massarello was also a semifinalist for the 2017 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.