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No Time to Delay: Finding New Excellent Skilled Trades Teachers

California, Colorado, New York, Wisconsin

No Time to Delay: Finding New Excellent Skilled Trades Teachers

Strengthening the skilled trades teacher pipeline is essential to meeting the growing demand for high-quality skilled trades education. Below are a few examples of how some educators and communities are addressing the teacher pipeline challenge.

Success Stories from Winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence®

West Hills, California: Transition Planning & Mentoring
Kathy Worley, a 2020 grand prize winner, was planning her retirement but did not want her award-winning industrial technology program to “die out for lack of a qualified teacher.” She helped recruit her replacement, but then went a step further and convinced her district administrators to change policy and approve funding so she could spend her final year co-teaching alongside her replacement. This “mentor-plus model” provided customized training and ensured the integrity of the well-regarded skilled trades pathway.

Lakewood, Colorado: Redefining Curriculum to Include More Teacher Talent
Scott Burke, a 2021 grand prize winner, co-created the nationally recognized Geometry in Construction (GIC) program with math teacher Tom Moore so that students learn the skilled trades and math through the process of building affordable homes for families in need. Over the past 15 years, Burke has personally taught GIC to more than 2,000 students and has also trained teachers at more than 700 schools so they could adopt GIC, expanding his impact to more than 70,000 students nationwide.

Seymour, Wisconsin: Flip “Traditional” Educators to Teach Skilled Trades
Staci Sievert, a 2021 prize winner, spent the first 22 years of her career as a high school social studies teacher. Her high school searched for a technical education teacher for about four years before Staci offered to be re-trained and take the role. The school district and Sievert worked together to create a schedule where she could take early morning and evening classes at a local college and teach during the day. Sievert learned wood manufacturing, welding and machining and revised the entire program curriculum.

School District Success Stories

Kern County, California: Teacher Pipeline Reinvention
In the Kern High School District (KHSD), the CTE teacher pipeline is thriving, consistently yielding 7-25 qualified candidates for CTE teacher positions annually. The pipeline is fueled by KHSD’s competitive salary schedule, CTE credentialing support, and customized mentoring. The school district’s pay scale recognizes industry experience as equivalent to classroom teaching experience, attracting industry professionals to become teachers. New teachers receive mentorship and a unique summer onboarding session, easing their transition from industry to the classroom.

New York, New York: A “Grow Your Own” Collaborative Success Story
The New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, together with their higher education partners, provide a dynamic five-year “Grow Your Own” program for public high school graduates. Each teaching fellow gains industry-related work experience, in-classroom teaching experience, and tuition-free college courses along with health benefits and paid time off. This program has been successful in recruiting many skilled trades teachers to serve in New York City’s high schools.