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$1 Million in Prizes to be Awarded to Top Public High School Skilled Trades Teachers and Programs

Los Angeles, CA

$1 Million in Prizes to be Awarded to Top Public High School Skilled Trades Teachers and Programs

Applications for the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence Open Today

CALABASAS, Calif.—Applications are now open for the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which will award cash prizes totaling $1 million to 18 of America’s best public high school skilled trades teachers or teacher teams and their programs.

Starting today, teachers and teacher teams can apply now through May 20* at

“The best skilled trades programs capture what teaching and learning should look like in any classroom, for any subject. Excellent skilled trades teachers use project-based learning, teach soft skills like leadership and collaboration, and help students apply academics to the real world,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.


“At a challenging time for all Americans as we work to prevent further spread of COVID-19, and especially for educators as they try to keep students learning online or remotely, teachers deserve our thanks and an extra-bright spotlight for their contribution to students, communities and to our country.”

-Danny Corwin


Nearly 2,000 teachers from 49 states applied in the first three years of the prize, and more than 150 teachers and their skilled trades programs have been recognized as winners or finalists and received a total of $2.5 million in cash awards. Their winnings have supported schools that serve more than 54,000 students. The 54 winning teachers and teacher teams are part of a growing nationwide community of skilled trades educators who communicate regularly and have access to the annual Let’s Build It Institute, a three-day professional development convening hosted by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Harbor Freight Tools 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. Among past winners of the prize, who teach a broad variety of trades from advanced manufacturing to woodworking, are educators who have led their students to help rebuild homes destroyed by hurricanes, manufacture parts for major aerospace companies and teach fifth-graders how to build a tiny house.


“Think of teachers at the high school down the street, or the career and tech center your niece or nephew attends, or your own trades teacher. Thank them. Then tell them to apply for the prize.”

-Eric Smidt


The 2020 prize will award three grand prize winners $100,000 each, with $70,000 going to their high school skilled trades program and $30,000 directly to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team. Fifteen additional prize winners will each win $50,000, with $35,000 going to the high school program and $15,000 to the teacher/team. 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.

“Winning this prize is about more than just advancing the equipment,” said Charles Kachmar, a 2018 grand prize winner. “The most important benefit is the exclamation point it has put on the importance of skilled trades education. My profession, my students, and their education are taken seriously.”

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. Applicants are asked to review and respond to a series of online expert-led video learning modules. Modules from past years are available online here and on YouTube.

There will be three rounds of judging, each scored by independent panels of reviewers. Applicants ranking in the top 50 will be announced on July 14. They will advance to a finalist round and will be asked to complete a second set of learning modules. The finalists will then be narrowed to the top 18. Three grand prize winners and 15 additional prize winners will be announced in October. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools does not determine the finalists or winners.

For updates on the prize, follow Harbor Freight Tools for Schools on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

*This press release has been updated to reflect the new deadline for applying to the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. Previously, the deadline was May 13. On April 20, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools announced it would extend the deadline until May 20. 



About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools 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.

Contact: Swati Pandey