Five high school teachers from around the country have been awarded $100,000 to support skilled trades training for their students. Another 15 are recipients of $50,000. Seventy percent of the prize goes to the high school program with the remaining 30% going directly to the teacher. In some cases, school districts don’t permit the teacher to receive a portion of the prize so the full award goes to the program.
The funds have been awarded every year since 2017 by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. The selection process to pick the winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence is a rigorous one, according to Danny Corwin, executive director of the organization.
“Part of that is the experience of the teacher – the passion they have for young people and the field. Then it gets into their curriculum and, also, their partnerships outside of the school building. The winners typically have robust partnerships with local industry, with nonprofits that are providing opportunities to students.”
This year’s award recipients come from 15 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The teachers’ pathway focuses include automotive, construction, carpentry, industrial technology, welding, agricultural mechanics, and machining.
The Award’s Impact
Corwin explains the impact these awards have, “Teachers often say this money is spent before they even receive it, because they have such a need to upgrade their equipment, their tools, and to modernize their shops.”
He continues, “They’re running [their programs] on old equipment and old tools which in the modernization of these fields in the trades just is not preparing young people for what exists in the current environment.”
Corwin says, “Our mission is to really increase understanding, support, and investment in excellent skill trades education. This comes from a deep respect for the trades and the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands.”
“The beautiful thing is that the teachers are often able to leverage the award now that they’re recognized in their communities by getting donations from businesses and even their own school districts.”
Corwin notes the involvement does not end with the awarding of the prize. He says the award winners, later, will have the opportunity to gather.
“This program is not a one-and-done investment. We bring all the prize winners together in person during the summer for a convening. We call it Let’s Build It and give them the space and the time to learn from one another. Then they help inform our strategies in terms of how we can have a bigger impact in the field.”