Skip to content

A Heartfelt Message from a 2018 Prize Winner

Dear Fellow Skilled Trades Teachers,

My name is Bill Dunham and I am an Industrial Technology teacher from Wappello Community School District in Wapello, IA.

Winning the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was just the “shot in the arm” I needed after 20-plus years in the classroom.  I’m here to encourage all my fellow teachers to take some time in the next four days and apply. It’s worth it.

Teaching is a hard job, if you put your heart and soul into it, and that is not always recognized by the community at large. People gripe about taxes and how much money the schools spend, but the reality is, our budgets are getting smaller and smaller, class sizes bigger and bigger, student behaviors more and more challenging, and parental support (often) not what it used to be. Some days it can make a person wonder if what you’re doing is really making a difference anymore. 

Winning this contest reminded me why I do what I do and reinvigorated me to keep at it.  Friends, family, community members, former students and colleagues—many people with whom I seldom have any contact anymore—responded when they heard of my award.  The words of encouragement, memories shared and compliments from folks who’d never expressed those sentiments before showed me that what I am doing *IS* making a difference—even when I may not always see it.

For me, this was a HUGE encouragement, and it could not have come at a better time.  I am re-energized, re-committed, and ready to keep moving forward in my efforts to help prepare my students for their futures in whatever skilled areas they may be.

The impact winning the prize made on our school was significant, as well.  Interest in my program was piqued. Students who hadn’t before been interested in industrial technology classes began asking about them. Parents, too. Parents and community members came by, interested to see “what all the fuss was about.”

Many times in education, conversations are more focused on the negatives, but this gave our community so much positive to talk about.  There has been nothing but good come from this experience—not only for me, but also for my students, my program, my administration, my school, and my community.

Go to and keep up the great work! Applications are due Monday June 17 at 5:00pm PT!

Bill Dunham

Wapello Community School District

2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence 2nd Place Winner