Applications are now open for the 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which will award cash prizes totaling $1.25 million to 20 of the best U.S. public high school skilled trades teachers and their programs. Teachers can apply through May 20, 2022 at https://hftforschoolsprize.org/.

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 prize is its flagship program.

“The United States is currently facing down an urgent nationwide shortage of skilled trades workers. Public high school skilled trades teachers and their students will be a critical part of the solution to this urgent problem. The prize honors and rewards these outstanding teachers and their programs,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “In the six years since the prize was created, we have honored 88 prize-winning teachers from around the country. We continue to collaborate with them throughout the year to help advance this critical field of education.”

The best skilled trades programs embody what great hands-on teaching and learning should look like in any classroom. Excellent skilled trades teachers use project-based learning, teach skills like leadership and collaboration, and help students apply academics to the real world.

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.

“Our country is making a massive investment in infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and broadband. In order to make those investments, we must rapidly expand our ability to train the next generation of skilled trades workers,’’ Smidt said.

“This prize is first and foremost a way to celebrate skilled trades education and thank our outstanding high school skilled trades teachers who don’t receive the recognition and respect they deserve. We are working to shine a spotlight on their excellent work so it can be celebrated and replicated at other schools.’’

A recent independent evaluation of the prize found that it has a dramatic impact on the winning teachers and their programs. Most said that the prize contributed to enrollment increases in their classes, an increase in local businesses reaching out to them to collaborate and an increase in donations to their programs. They also said winning the prize helped them strengthen relationships with community colleges. Most significantly, winning teachers are seeking new leadership opportunities and now see themselves as advocates for excellent high school skilled trades education.

This year the number of grand prize winners jumps from three to five, increasing the overall number of prize winners from 18 to 20. The five grand prize winners will receive $100,000 each, with $30,000 going to the teacher and $70,000 going to their program. Fifteen additional prize winners will each win $50,000, with $15,000 going to the teacher and $35,000 going to their program.

Past winners of the prize are teachers who have led their students to rebuild homes destroyed by hurricanes, manufacture parts for major aerospace companies and run live automotive repair shops on their high school campuses.

About the Prize:

  • Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has received more than 3,300 applications for the prize since 2017.
  • The benefits of the prize have had an impact on more than 100,000 students in skilled trades programs nationwide.
  • $4.7 million in cash awards have been given to 88 winning teachers and their skilled trades programs.
  • Winning teachers are invited to an annual convening called Let’s Build It, a three-day event hosted by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools where teachers share best practices and pilot innovate ideas.
  • Teachers whose school, district and/or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings are eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program.
  • The application process and the prize are designed to give teachers access to ideas and practices through a network of likeminded exceptional educators and leaders.
  • For updates on the prize, follow Harbor Freight Tools for Schools on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.