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Don’t Give Up (Sixth Time’s the Charm)


Don’t Give Up (Sixth Time’s the Charm)

Dear Fellow Skilled Trades Teachers,

My name is Kevin Finan and in 2022, I was one of the 20 winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence after applying six years in a row! I have been the machining instructor at Atlantic Technical College & Technical High School in Coconut Creek, FL, for the last ten years. Before that, I worked in the industry for twenty-two years. I attended a technical high school and then a four-year apprenticeship in Ireland. At that time, I was so lucky to have great trade teachers. What you do every day matters as the skills you teach your students positively change their lives.

I know how busy you are. Teaching is by far the easiest part of our job and by far the most rewarding. But you take on so many other roles such as recruiting students, securing funding, purchasing, installing, and maintaining machines, staying up to date with industry certifications, contacting local companies, and placing our students in jobs. Add in all the required school district-related training and meetings, you have little time left.

So, when the email arrives asking you to consider applying for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, you flag it and allow it to drop to the bottom of your messages. This year, give yourself the gift of completing the process, whether it will be your first or seventh time. It will help you to reflect on the program you have built, your accomplishments, and spark innovative ideas on how to improve. I promise the work is worth the effort.

The first year I applied was 2017, which had been a tough time at our school. Our electrical teacher had just died (Mr. Owens RIP). I really did not want to work late that evening, but I felt that maybe completing the application was the best tribute I could give to our trade’s co-worker. I have applied every year since. Am I stubborn or persistent? The latter, I hope (although my siblings may have a different opinion). This can be a great lesson for our students, even when you aren’t successful, you must keep moving forward.

Our win in 2022 has been a great boost for our machining program and our school. The recognition has served as an affirmation of the time I have invested in my students and my commitment to my industry. The students and I plan to wisely invest the $50,000 prize into our machining program. A few cool machines are now within our grasp!

Don’t give up, as the sixth time was the charm for me!

So go to and start or continue your application today! Applications are due on Friday, May 5th at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Kevin Finan
2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence Winner