High School Skilled Trades Teachers Honored with over $1 Million in Prizes

Industry News

 

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools announced the 18 winners of its $1 million Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, including three grand prize winners from Colorado, Ohio and Virginia. 

The annual Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, now in its fifth year, was created to spotlight excellence among high school skilled traded teachers, a group of educators that is often overlooked and underappreciated. In recent months, the importance of high quality skilled trades education has received more attention nationally because of an urgent shortage of skilled tradespeople in the workforce. 

“High school skilled trades teachers and their programs are an essential part of addressing the skilled trades worker shortage,’’ said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “These dedicated educators make a huge difference in the lives of young people every day, setting them on a course for a meaningful career and to make a difference in their community.’’ 

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence grand prize winners are:  

Jeffrey Bertke, Electrical Trades

Upper Valley Career Center

Piqua, OH 

Scott Burke, Construction

Green Mountain High School

Lakewood, CO 

Derek Wray, Automotive & Diesel Technology

Salem High School

Salem, VA 

The grand prize winners and their schools will receive $100,000—including $70,000 for the high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the teacher. An additional 15 prize winners and their schools will each receive $50,000—with $35,000 going to the high school skilled trades program and $15,000 to the teacher. Due to school, district or state policy regarding individual cash awards, the schools of two of the winners will receive the entire prize winnings. 

Overall, there are winners from 14 states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. 

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was launched in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools, to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools. Over the past five years, the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence has been awarded to 89 trades teachers and impacted more than 100,000 students. The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase understanding, support and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. 

``Among the key things we came to appreciate during the pandemic is the value of hands-on learning and the incredible resilience and commitment of our teachers,’’ Smidt said. ``We are grateful that these outstanding prize winners and thousands of educators like them across the country are developing tomorrow’s skilled workforce.’’ 

Research by NORC at the University of Chicago has found deep and bipartisan support for increased funding for high school skilled trades education. According to the study commissioned by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, in 2019 more than 78 percent of Republicans, Independents and Democrats said school districts should make skilled trades funding a priority. Despite that enthusiastic support, high quality skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools is woefully inadequate to meet the demands of a skilled workforce. Existing high school programs cannot meet even half of the employer demand for skilled tradespeople over the next decade. 

Cash awards given to schools will support winning teachers’ skilled trades programs. Individual winnings can be used however the winners wish. 

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. The application process, which included responses to questions and a series of learning modules, was designed to solicit each teacher’s experience, insights and creative ideas about their approach to teaching and success in helping their students achieve excellence in the skilled trades. 

 

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in public high schools across America. With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to drive a greater understanding of and investment in skilled trades education, believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs. Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. For more information, visit: harborfreighttoolsforschools.org

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