CALABASAS, Calif.—Fifty skilled trades teachers and teacher teams from across the country were named today as finalists for the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. The teachers and their high school skilled trades programs are in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards.
The finalists hail from 23 states and specialize in trades including manufacturing, welding, construction, automotive, agriculture mechanics and technical theater. The teachers—some competing as individuals and some as teams—were selected by an independent panel of judges from a field of more than 600 applicants. The list of finalists is available here.
“Trades teachers are truly unsung heroes, and our prize seeks to show everyone how powerful these classes can be,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “Skilled trades education has enormous potential to offer students pathways to multiple postsecondary opportunities, and these are the teachers who are providing them with the knowledge, skills and inspiration year after year.”
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. As recent research from JFF (formerly known as Jobs for the Future) and funded by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools found, students who “concentrate” (or take multiple trades courses as part of a program) are more likely to graduate than their peers. Upon graduation, students are prepared for either further education or work in fields that routinely rank among the hardest jobs to fill.
Now, in the fourth year of the prize, more than 200 teachers have been recognized as winners or finalists. Winners join a nationwide network of outstanding trades teachers who convene regularly by webinar and in a three-day summer workshop to share best practices and advance their field.
“There’s a reason why polls show enormous support for trades education—with more than 8 in 10 parents and voters believing it deserves more funding,” Smidt said, citing a poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and released this spring by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “Trades teachers are turning out the tradespeople of the future—the workers who will build and maintain our critical care infrastructure, our communication networks, our homes and cars. These teachers deserve to be celebrated.”
The 2020 finalists 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 18 winners and, finally, name three of those teachers Grand Prize recipients. All winners will be announced in late October.
The 18 winners will split the $1 million prize. Grand Prize 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. The 15 additional 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. Finalists whose school, district and/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, their entire share of the prize will be awarded to the school.
For press releases regarding each state’s finalists, click here.
About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools 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 us at HarborFreightToolsforSchools.org and Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.