Vale High’s Merle Saunders retires after three decades of teaching students how to fix cars

merlesaunders.JPGView full sizeOregon high school automotive students Drew Torrey (right) and Matthew Saunders, from Vale, along with their automotive instructor Merle Saunders celebrate their first-place finish in the 62nd annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals in Dearborn, Mich., last month.VALE — Veteran teacher Merle Saunders, known for transforming rural teenagers into automotive magicians, is revving into retirement after 31 years at the tiny 300-student Vale High School in eastern Oregon’s Malheur County, leaving a remarkable record of success.

Saunders’ students represented Oregon 24 times in the so-called “Indy 500 of auto repair,” the Ford/AAA Auto Skills National Finals  in Dearborn, Mich. His high achievers won first place five times, including this year, and placed 18 times in the top 10, a contest record.

In last

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