50 high school skilled trades teachers up for $1 million in prizes

July 22, 2019
Semifinalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence have been announced.

Fifty skilled trades teachers and teaching teams from across the country were named as semifinalists for the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. They and their high school skilled trades programs are in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards.

The semifinalists hail from 26 states and specialize in trades including manufacturing, welding, construction, automotive, and agriculture mechanics. The teachers, some competing as individuals and some as teams, were selected by an independent panel of judges from among a field of 749 applicants. The list of the 50 semifinalists is available here.

“We never cease to be amazed by the talent, creativity, and resourcefulness of skilled trades educators,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “This year’s semifinalists teach more than a dozen trades and have spent a collective 800 years in the classroom, and we couldn’t be more excited to honor their work.”

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools. The prize recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the teachers who inspire students to learn a trade that prepares them for life after graduation. Now, in the third year of the prize, more than 150 teachers have been recognized as winners or semifinalists. Winners are invited to attend an annual convening to share best practices for advancing excellence in skilled trades education.

“Skilled trades teachers help hundreds of thousands of students each year experience the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from learning a trade,” Smidt said. “These teachers, their students, and skilled tradespeople everywhere too often don't receive the respect and gratitude they deserve. Without them, construction would halt, homes, cars, and appliances would fall into disrepair, and our infrastructure would crumble. We are thrilled to be able to honor and elevate the importance of their work.”

The semifinalists now advance to a second round of competition, where they will be asked to respond to online expert-led video learning modules designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about teaching practices. The contenders will be asked how ideas from the modules might be used to inspire students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades. Two rounds of judging, each by separate independent panels of reviewers, will narrow the field to the 18 finalists and, finally, name the three first-place winners and 15 second-place winners.

The 18 winners will split $1 million in prizes. First-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. Second-place winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team. Past winners have dedicated their winnings to modernizing their shops, investing in specialized tools, promoting their programs to families, and purchasing equipment to prepare students for higher-level accreditations. Semifinalists whose school, district, or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. If they win, the entire prize will be awarded to the school.

Winners will be announced on October 24.

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