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The Value of Reflection

Dear Fellow Skilled Trades Teachers,

My name is Jeff Bertke and I teach electrical trades at Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, OH. In 2021, I was one of the Grand Prize winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence after several years of applying and committing to the process. I have been in my classroom for 11 years and work on improving the high school student experience each year. If you are taking the time out of your busy schedule filling out the application for this year’s prize, I believe you have that same drive and passion in your classroom.

I’m writing to offer some insight as you go through the application and encourage you to keep trying if you didn’t win in previous years. If I could give you one word of advice as you begin, it would be “reflect.” As we go through our lives and classes, we are so busy, and we don’t take the time to reflect enough. As fellow skilled trades teachers, you know that we need to reflect on our lessons to try to improve. Pause, take a breath, and reflect on your classroom strategies and the amazing things you do to keep moving your program forward. Mostly, I encourage you to reflect on the things you do day in and day out to make a positive impact on your students.

When you look back on what you have accomplished and the lives you’ve changed, you will have the motivation to find time and fill out the application.

Here are some things that I did when completing my application:

  1. Copy the questions to a Word document and use that to write and refine your answers instead of starting right away on the platform.
  2. I wrote everything and anything down that related to the question and then I worked backward to make the character count (2,000 max per question).
  3. I took time to make the sentences grammatically correct and concise. After everything was on paper; I was better able to organize my thoughts.
  4. Find time to answer one question per day instead of all at once. You will be better able to reflect on the entire application and time won’t slip away from you as it did for me my first two years.
  5. Know that even if you don’t win the prize money, you are winning because you are reflecting on your teaching practices and successes. This process in itself will make you a winner in your classroom.

Go to to get started on or continue your application! A friendly reminder that applications are due on May 20, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Best of luck!


Best regards,

Jeff Bertke

2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence Grand Prize Winner