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Caddo Career & Technology Center instructor Gary Weese has been announced as the $50,000 recipient of the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. Weese has been an automotive technology teacher with CCTC for 22 years and an ASE Certified Master Automotive Technician for the last 45 years. This national award recognizes his outstanding instruction in skilled trades in a U.S. public high school and is awarded to teachers who inspire students to learn skills in preparation for life after graduation.

In his tenure with the Career Center, Weese has repeatedly placed the school in the national spotlight. Just one year into teaching, Weese’s program was certified by the Automotive Service Education Foundation (formerly known as NATEF) and was the first automotive program to achieve a perfect score in the certification process. The program was recognized as one of the top five schools in the nation in the implementation of the AYES model.

“We are tremendously proud of Mr. Weese and where he has taken this program over the years. Students have been inspired by him and equipped with the knowledge to work in auto-tech and other trades. We know he is the most deserving of this honor,” said Keith Burton, Chief Academic Officer for Caddo Parish Public Schools.

Weese’s students participate in SkillsUSA, the national career and technical education student organization, and some have been selected as members of the National Technical Honor Society. Previous graduates of his program have won first place in Louisiana SkillsUSA automotive competitions in eight of the last 10 years, and one of his students was the first female winner of a SkillsUSA automotive competition in the state. Many of Weese’s students also participate in the Automotive Youth Education System (AYES) internship program where they train to become technicians in automotive dealerships across the country.

“I love to see a student’s eyes light up with excitement as they obtain mastery over an automotive task,” Weese said. “Now that’s great, but let’s add some more excitement to this by having them train other students how to do the task they just mastered. Our students have been taught soft skills and work ethics which are a part of everyday class operation, and something the instructors believe that is led by example.”

Weese continues to help operate his family’s automotive repair business and keeps up to date with the latest technological developments through this work. He holds a master’s degree in educational leadership, as well as marketing and finance degrees. Weese, who served in the United States Air Force, has won several awards including National Teacher of the Year from the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades. The 2021 prize drew more than 700 applications from 49 states and included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy and civic leadership.