ROCKVILLE, MD—Raul Javier Ortiz, an auto technology instructor at Damascus High School, was named Montgomery County Public Schools Teacher of the Year at the April 26 Champions for Children gala.
Ortiz spent the first 20 years of his career tuning car engines. Now, he’s shifted gears and heads the successful Automotive Technology Program at Damascus.
But Ortiz teaches more than auto technology skills. He also serves as a role model for what his students can achieve. He inspires his students to continue learning, both by sharing his personal story and by providing guidance and support.
“Mr. Ortiz is a very special teacher,” says Robert Domergue, principal of Damascus HS. “He builds student confidence and skills while building relationships. His students admire and respect him and know that he cares about them.”
During his work in the auto industry as a technician, Ortiz served as a mentor to student interns. Realizing that the best way to help people was to teach, he earned 21 credits to receive his teaching certificate and passed all the required national certification tests to achieve his Master Tech Certification. To top that off, he acquired 36 credit hours for his master’s degree equivalency. Many of Ortiz’s students are inspired to continue their educational careers because of his personal story and his guidance.
Since coming to Damascus in 2002, Ortiz has guided the school through the rigorous processes for both the National Automotive Technician’s Education Foundation and the Automotive Youth Educational System certifications—the highest level of credentials for an automotive technology program.
He has built partnerships with local dealers and repair shops and places students with employers. He shares information about trade schools and college programs with his students, and frequently brings school and industry representatives to talk to them.
Knowing that a well-rounded education is essential in any career, Ortiz emphasizes writing, reading, verbal communication, information technology and math skills as he works with students in his shop.
Grateful parents recognize Ortiz’s impact on their children. They speak of his classroom skills, high expectations and ability to encourage students to take responsibility and problem-solve for themselves. “Our son looks up to Mr. Ortiz and speaks of him daily,” says parent Michael Byrne. “He is both a role model and mentor to my son, so much so that my son has chosen auto mechanics as a vocation and will be attending NTI in the Carolinas next fall.”
In 2006, Ortiz received the Career and Technology Education Teacher Award of Excellence in the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Career cluster. He also was featured on Fox News in November 2005 as “One Who Makes a Difference.”
Ortiz will compete with teachers from other counties for Maryland Teacher of the Year. That winner will advance to the national competition.
The Teacher of the Year was selected from among three veteran teacher winners of the Marian Greenblatt Excellence in Teaching Awards. The other two veteran teacher award winners were Philip D’Agnese of Spark M. Matsunaga Elementary School, and Noreen Gale of Oakland Terrace Elementary School.