High School Skilled Trades Teachers and their programs awarded $1.25 million dollars


Across the country, 20 high school skilled trades teachers in 15 states are being surprised today with the news that they have been named winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. In all, $1.25 million in cash prizes will be awarded to the teachers and their programs.

The annual Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, now in its sixth year, was created to recognize excellence among high school skilled trades teachers, a group of educators that is frequently overlooked and underappreciated. Since 2017, the program has awarded more than $6 million to more than 100 U.S. public high school teachers and their schools – supporting tens of thousands of students along the way. 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.

“We cannot overstate the impact that high school skilled trades teachers are having in the classroom. Hands-on skilled trades classes are making a comeback, and we couldn’t be prouder to celebrate the accomplishments of these remarkable teachers and their programs,’’ said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

Overall, there are winners from 15 states:  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

The winning teachers come from a variety of skilled trades career pathways including automotive, construction, carpentry, industrial technology, welding, agricultural mechanics and machining.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was launched 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.

The five grand prize winners and their schools will each receive $100,000 – with $70,000 going to the high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the teacher. An additional 15 prize winners and their schools will each receive $50,000 – with $35,000 going to the high school skilled trades program and $15,000 to the teacher. Due to school, district and/or state policy regarding individual cash awards, the schools of several of the winners will receive the entire prize winnings.

Cash awards given to schools will support winning teachers’ skilled trades programs. The 2022 prize drew a record 768 applications from all 50 states and included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy, and civic leadership. The application process, which included responses to questions and a series of video learning modules, was designed to solicit each teacher’s experience, insights and creative ideas about their approach to teaching and success in helping their students achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

In June, the field was narrowed to 50 finalists. The high school skilled trades programs of the 30 finalists who were not named winners today will each receive a $1,000 gift card from Harbor Freight Tools.

List of $100,000 grand prize winners:

  • Jason Blackwell – Industrial Maintenance teacher at Escambia Career Readiness Center in Brewton, AL
  • Kristie Jones – Construction and Carpentry teacher at Franklin County Career and Technical Center in Meadville, MS
  • Bill Culver – Construction teacher at Evergreen High School in Vancouver, WA
  • Jared Monroe – Automotive Technology teacher at Columbia Area Career Center in Columbia, MO
  • Cory Torppa – Construction teacher at Kalama High School in Kalama, WA

List of the $50,000 prize winners:

  • Jeff Bearinger – Carpentry teacher at Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega, GA
  • Matt Blomquist – Construction teacher at Taylorville High School in Taylorville, IL
  • Ashton Bohling – Industrial Technology teacher at Johnson Brock High School in Johnson, NE
  • Joshua Bowles – Carpentry teacher at Alexander Central High School in Taylorsville, NC
  • Taylor Donnelly – Agricultural Mechanics teacher at Sheridan High School in Sheridan, AR
  • Aaron Ervin – Welding teacher at Pike Lincoln Technical Center in Eolia, MO
  • Kevin Finan – Machining teacher at Atlantic Technical College & Technical High School in Coconut Creek, FL
  • Blair Jensen – Welding teacher at Jordan Academy for Technology & Careers-South Campus in Riverton, UT
  • David Moye – Automotive Technology teacher at Lyman High School in Longwood, FL
  • Mark Simmons – Automotive & Diesel Technology teacher at Springfield High School in Springfield, OR
  • Leif Sorgule – Industrial Technology teacher at Peru High School in Peru, NY
  • John Stratton – Automotive Technology teacher at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES in New Hartford, NY
  • Andrice Tucker – Automotive Technology teacher at Central Nine Career Center in Greenwood, IN
  • Jim Van Bladel – Automotive Technology teacher at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, IL
  • Dan Van Boxtel – Automotive Technology teacher at Kaukauna High School in Kaukauna, WI

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to drive a greater understanding of and investment in skilled trades education, believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs. Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program.