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Colorado automotive technology educator is grand-prize winner for teaching excellence

Brian Manley and Cherry Creek Innovation Campus will be awarded $100,000 from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, part of $1 million in total prizes given

Centennial. Colo.—Brian Manley, an automotive technology teacher at Cherry Creek Innovation Campus in Centennial, Colo., is one of three grand-prize winners of the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

They and their schools will receive $100,000, including $70,000 for the high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the teacher. In addition, 15 Prize winners and their schools will also receive monetary prizes. In total, $1 million will be awarded.

“This year has been one of the toughest on record for skilled trades teachers as they switch between in-person, remote or blended learning — all while trying to do their life’s work of preparing the next generation of tradespeople,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “At a time when tradespeople are more essential than ever, so is trades education. We are honored and grateful to have the chance to shine a spotlight on these teachers’ amazing work.”

Manley rose above more than 600 applications from 48 states and included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy and civic leadership.

His interest for all things automotive guided him toward career and technical education classes when he was a high school student, according to a news release, and this fall begins his 26th year of teaching.

Manley’s program was one of the first two certified through Automotive Youth Educational Systems in 1998. Since then, he has facilitated ongoing apprenticeships with local industry partners. Prior to accepting his current position, Manley had a career as a master automobile technician. He is currently in the final year of a doctoral program focused on leadership for education equity.

Other grand-prize winners are Mike Shallenberger, an engineering teacher at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands Ranch, Colo, and Kathryn Worley, an industrial technology teacher at West Hills High School in Santee, Calif.

The 15 Prize winners across the country will each receive $50,000, with $35,000 going to the winning skilled trades program and $15,000 to the teacher. Because of school, district and/or state policy regarding individual cash awards, the schools of two of the winners will receive the entire prize winnings.

Among the 15 Prize winners who are in automotive technology are:

Michael Shephard
Automotive Technology
Union County Career and Technical Institute
Scotch Plains, N.J.

Robert Caylor
Automotive Technology
Gulfport High School
Gulfport, Miss.

Wayne Violet
Automotive Technology
Washington County Technical High School
Hagerstown, Md.

Among the 32 finalists who were not named winners in automotive technology are ($1,000 gift cards awarded):

Jay Abitz
Automotive and Collision Repair
Freedom High School, Wisc.

Kevin Cornell
Automotive Technology
Carver Career and Technical Center, W. Va.

Dave Darden
Automotive Technology
Cedar Shoals High School, Ga.

Brian Diehl
Diesel Technology
Dauphin County Technical School, Pa.

John Gunderson
Automotive
John Jay High School, Texas

Jay Hales
Automotive Technology 
Riverton High School, Utah

Erik Mortensen
Automotive
Watuaga High School, N.C.

Robert Mroz, David Krawczyk
Automotive
Potter Career and Technical Center, N.Y.

Jeremy Tarbet
Automotive
Canyon del Oro High School, Ariz.

Andrice Tucker, Steve Owen
Automotive Service Technology
Central Nine Career Center, Ind.

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, to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the teachers who inspire students to learn skills to prepare 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 and that have come to be widely recognized as “essential” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Trades teachers are educating and developing the tradespeople of the future,” Smidt said. “Many of the students in their classes today will become — as soon as next spring — the workers who keep our critical care infrastructure, our communication networks, our homes and cars up and running. The prize is our way of saying thank you to their teachers.”

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