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$1 Million in Prizes for U.S. Public High School Skilled Trades Teachers and Programs

Los Angeles, CA

$1 Million in Prizes for U.S. Public High School Skilled Trades Teachers and Programs

Applications for Prize for Teaching Excellence Open Today

CALABASAS, Calif.— Applications are now open for the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which will award cash prizes totaling over $1 million to 18 of America’s best public high school skilled trades teachers and their programs.

Starting today, teachers can apply now through May 21, 2021 at This is the fifth anniversary of the prize.

The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase understanding, support of and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. The Prize for Teaching Excellence is its flagship program.

“We’re honored to shine a spotlight on excellent skilled trades teaching and learning in America’s public high schools and bring well-deserved attention to these amazing educators,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “In the five years since the prize was created, we have celebrated more than 70 prize winning teachers from around the country and continue to collaborate with them to advance this important field of education.”

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

The past year has been a challenging time for all educators and skilled trades teachers have needed to be inventive to offer hands-on learning at a distance when schools were closed. The 2021 application will provide an opportunity for trades teachers to share how they adjusted and kept their students engaged.

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.

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.

“Think of terrific skilled trades teachers at your neighborhood high school or career and tech center, or the teacher who helped you learn your trade,” Smidt said. “First, thank them. Then tell them to apply for the prize.”

About the Prize:

  • Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has received more than 2,600 applications for the prize since 2017.
  • The benefits of the prize have had an impact on more than 50,000 students in skilled trades programs nationwide.
  • More than $3.5 million in cash awards have been given to 72 winning teachers and their skilled trades programs.
  • Winning teachers are invited to the annual Let’s Build It Institute, a three-day convening hosted by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools where teachers share best practices and pilot innovate ideas.
  • Three grand prize winners will receive $100,000 each, with $70,000 going to their high school skilled trades program and $30,000 going directly to the individual skilled trades teacher.
  • Fifteen additional prize winners will each win $50,000, with $35,000 going to the high school program and $15,000 going to the teacher.
  • Teachers whose school, district 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 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Quotes from Past Winners Across the United States:


Wendy Schepman

Landscape & Turf Grass Management Teacher

South Fork High School, Stuart, FL

2019 Grand Prize Winner


“Winning this prize has changed my life in unimaginable ways. I cannot begin to tell you about the support that came pouring out from my community. Teachers from all of the schools in Martin County, former students, parents, people I have never met, reached out to congratulate my students and me. It felt so great to be recognized for something positive. It was actually overwhelming.”


Baxter Weed

Automotive Technology Instructor

Cold Hollow Career Center

Enosburg Falls, VT

2019 Prize Winner


“Being part of the program has been a wonderful experience since I first started the application. Whether we had received a prize or not, the process was great at making me reflect on what I do and how to improve my program. I kept the students appraised of how the application process was going throughout. Now they see that someone who grew up in their community can attain awards by working hard and demonstrating commitment.’’


Joel Massarello

Automotive Service Teacher

Oakland Schools Technical Campus

Clarkston, MI

2019 Prize Winner


“I have seen a transition in the student body this year as they had a very positive outlook that extended late into the school year. The students have a sense of confidence about their program and potential career choice and I have seen a peak in their interest. The prize has also resulted in continued support from Oakland Schools ensuring that the funds are appropriated responsibly. The program has also benefited from a positive response and recognition from the local community. Several businesses have reached out to see how they can be involved with our program in Clarkston and to help with student employment opportunities.”


Cesar Gutierrez

Precision Manufacturing/Drafting & Design

Desert View High School

Tucson, AZ

2019 Grand Prize Winner


“Since winning the prize, our program has grown by 80 more students. We now have 380 students registered in the program. With the extra equipment, it allows for more students to work on projects with more complex setups.


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 public high schools across America. 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. For more information, visit us at and on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.