Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Announces Finalists for Skilled Trades Teaching Prize

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has announced the 10 finalists for the inaugural Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which will award more than $500,000 to skilled trades teachers and programs in American public high schools.

Drawn from across the country and representing skilled trades like construction, automotive, architecture, woodworking, manufacturing and marine systems technology, the 10 finalists are in the running for three first-place prizes of $100,000, with $70,000 going to the high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. The seven second-place winners will each be awarded $30,000, with $20,000 going to the high school program and $10,000 to the teacher/team. The winners will be announced on Oct. 26.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was designed to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools that inspires students to learn a trade that prepares them for a career after high school.

“We created this prize out of respect for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands to create, build and repair,” says Eric Smidt, founder of the prize and founder, owner and CEO of the national retailer, Harbor Freight Tools. “We’re proud to honor the leadership of these skilled trades teachers, who are working to equip their students with the know-how and skill to land jobs, pursue futures, and become part of a workforce our country needs.”

The finalists are:

  • Roxanne Montarro Amiot
    Automotive
    Bullard-Havens Technical High School
    Bridgeport, Conn.
    The first woman to graduate from Bullard-Havens in auto shop, Amiot worked in the automotive industry before returning to her high school to teach auto shop. She has taught in the Connecticut Technical High School System as an auto instructor for 29 years. Passionate about preparing her students for careers and providing skilled technicians to the industry, Amiot’s auto lab is a licensed repair facility, and students complete internships with local businesses and graduate with industry certifications.
  • Gerald “Dave” Huffman and Patrick Wadsworth
    Construction Technology
    Gulfport High School
    Gulfport, Miss.
    Huffman teaches construction technology, and Wadsworth teaches English and technical writing. Their students work collaboratively on projects, melding technical and academic learning into a robust, real-world education.  Construction technology coursework prepares students for employment or continued education in the construction trades.
  • Ed Hughes
    Construction, Technology Education
    Sheboygan Falls High School
    Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
    Hughes teaches construction, computer-aided design, STEM and other trades. He guides his students through trades pathways, an internship program and robotics competitions. Hughes helped spearhead the creation of his school’s Innovation Design Center, a learning space dedicated to the trades and technology.
  • Bob Kilmer
    Construction & Architecture
    Enumclaw High School
    Enumclaw, Wash.
    Kilmer teaches woodworking, computer-aided design and architecture and construction, and he also serves as an instructional technology coach for the Enumclaw School District. Kilmer teaches his students to use their tools, skills, materials and processes to solve real-world problems, and this year they will build a tiny house for a local family in need.
  • Brendan Malone
    Marine Systems Technology
    Urban Assembly New York Harbor School
    Brooklyn, N.Y.
    The Marine Systems Technology program that Malone leads prepares students to work in a career building, maintaining and repairing boats. The school is authorized to administer the American Boat and Yacht Council’s Marine Systems Technician Certification Exam, a credential in the marine industry. Malone’s juniors and seniors are required to participate in marine field internships. This year, Malone’s class will partner with the South Street Seaport Museum in New York to restore a 1930s tugboat as part of their internship program.
  • Scott Mayotte
    Automotive Technology
    Concord Regional Technical Center
    Concord, N.H.
    After nearly two decades as an automotive technician for Volkswagen, Mayotte turned to the classroom to teach automotive technology. His students graduate from a nationally certified program with industry credentials and can earn college credit for their coursework. This fall, Mayotte established the “All Girls Garage” at his school to introduce more young women to the auto industry.
  • Jonathan Schwartz
    Advanced Manufacturing
    Colfax High School
    Colfax, Calif.
    A longtime math teacher, Schwartz took over his school’s shop when it was in danger of closing, after realizing that shop students understood math concepts better than calculus students. By combining woodshop, engineering and math into an advanced manufacturing curriculum, his students use software to design wood projects then build those projects with traditional shop tools, computer numerical control (CNC) equipment, 3-D printers and laser cutters.
  • Cole Smith and Bill Hartman
    Construction, Woodworking
    Rancho Cotate High School
    Rohnert Park, Calif.
    Smith and Hartman lead woodworking and sustainable construction classes, teaching their students how to build an off-the-grid tiny house, from the computer designed blueprints to construction of the 153-square-foot structure, complete with a composting toilet, water filtration system and solar panels. The hands-on project teaches students carpentry, plumbing and roofing.
  • Robert David White
    Automotive Technology
    Parkside High School
    Salisbury, Md.
    White has taught automotive technology in Wicomico County, Md., for 31 years and was recognized as National Instructor of the Year by Automotive Service Excellence/Automotive Youth Educational Systems in 2007 and 2011. White’s students maintain a fleet of 85 vehicles for the local board of education, and they annually diagnose and repair about 1,000 cars from the community.
  • Randy Williamson
    Construction Trades
    Williamsport Area High School Career and Technical Education
    Williamsport, Pa.
    Williamson guides his students in building a small-scale house, from generating computer-designed plans to constructing and installing the electrical and plumbing systems. Williamson cultivates relationships between his students and the local building association, and he taps regional industry advisors to ensure his program trains students in advanced and in-demand skills. Many of his students graduate industry-certified and are able to land construction jobs after high school.

“These 10 finalists are educators who combine hands-on knowledge and passion to open doors for their students to the skilled trades and to life,” says Robin Kramer, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “The talents of these public school teachers go unrecognized far too often, and we’re proud to shine a light on their work in creating futures for their students and to support their can-do spirit.”

The need for skilled trades professionals in the U.S. is growing. Between now and 2024, there will be more than 1.5 million skilled trades job openings as Baby Boomers retire, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The prize competition drew nearly 700 applicants from 48 states, who were narrowed to 54 semi-finalists. The application process included a learning component, giving all applicants access to ideas and practices, shared through a series of online expert-led learning models, to help them be effective in the classroom. All learning modules are available online here.

The finalists were selected by panels of judges from the worlds of business, K-12 and higher education, the trades and crafts, non-profits and philanthropy.  A separate panel of eight judges will select the first- and second-place winners. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools does not play a role in selecting the finalists or winners.

The school’s prize winnings will support the skilled trades program being recognized, and the teacher’s or teacher team winnings can be used at their discretion.

For more information about the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Teaching Prize for Excellence, please visit the website.

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