More than 1,000 applications were received this year, representing a 31 percent increase over the 769 who applied in 2022
Los Angeles—Fifty U.S. public high school skilled trades teachers were named as finalists on Tuesday for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. A total of $1.5 million in cash prizes will be awarded in October, when the field is narrowed down to 25 winners.
More than 1,000 applications were received this year, representing a 31 percent increase over the 769 who applied in 2022.
The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt. The prize recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the valuable work of teachers who inspire students to learn a trade that prepares them for life after graduation.
“The shortage of skilled trades workers in the United States is becoming a bigger challenge every day. America depends on high school skilled trades teachers to prepare the next generation of skilled trades workers,” Smidt said. “This prize is our way of recognizing the extraordinary work of skilled trades teachers, who rarely get the credit or attention they deserve.”
With this year’s prize, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools will have awarded more than $7 million to more than 130 U.S. public high school teachers and their schools’ programs, supporting tens of thousands of students along the way. In 2023, there were applicants from all 50 states, with a record 1,009 applications received.
This year, the total amount of cash prizes will jump from $1.25 million to $1.5 million. The number of winners will increase from 20 to 25. Winners will be announced in October.
The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase understanding, support and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence is its flagship program.
The finalists are from 30 states and were selected by an independent panel of judges with expertise in career and technical education. Applications are accepted from U.S. public high school teachers in the following trades categories: agricultural mechanics, carpentry, construction, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, manufacturing, plumbing, transportation mechanics and repair, and welding.
The list of finalists is available here.
Winners join a nationwide network of skilled trades teachers who convene throughout the year, including at a four-day summer event called “Let’s Build It,” to share best practices and develop new ideas to advance high school skilled trades education.
“Through the prize, we have met more than 100 incredible high school skilled trades teachers who inspire us every day. From the beginning, our goal has been to serve as a catalyst to bring more attention and support to the exceptional skilled trades teachers and students across the country,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.
The 2023 finalists now advance to a second round of competition, where they will be asked to respond to an online expert-led learning module designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about teaching practices.
The finalists will also be asked to submit a short video describing an aspect of their teaching that illustrates excellence. Two additional rounds of judging, each by separate independent panels of reviewers, will narrow the field to 25 winners and, finally, name the five grand prize winners and 20 additional prize winners.
The five 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 skilled trades teacher behind the winning application.
The 20 additional winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $15,000 to the skilled trades teacher. Winners whose school, district and/or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of the prize award were eligible to apply on behalf of their schools’ skilled trades programs. If they win, the entire share of the prize will be awarded to the schools.