“Just like growing up on the farm or doing construction, I usually come home dirty and sweaty from working right alongside my students on their projects. I love the relationships I build with my students, and sleep great at night knowing that someday the skills they learn from me will pay off for them both in a career and in family life.”

Troy Reichert grew up working on a small family farm. When weather, low crop prices and high debt made farming no longer viable, Reichert’s father started a career in construction. Reichert decided to become a shop teacher at the recommendation of an advisor in college so he could work with his hands as well. He has spent more than 20 years in the classroom, including more than 10 teaching industrial technology at Guernsey-Sunrise Public School in Guernsey, Wyoming.

Reichert’s curriculum is wide-reaching, covering welding, woods, construction, residential wiring and plumbing, scaffolded to offer different requirements and lessons to students at different skill levels. Math, science and even history and English are part of Reichert’s teaching: students build historical items, keeping journals and presenting their work, and study tree rings to learn lessons about the environment and climate.

Each month, students engage in a video chat with tradespeople from a variety of industries—important exposure in a small, rural community. Each day, students also receive a grade on soft skills, including work ethic, interaction with peers and attendance. “These skills are vital toward gaining future employment and are a heavy focus in my curriculum so that all of my students can be successful,” Reichert said. Students can also earn more than 16 college credits in Reichert’s program.

Reichert’s students build and create projects for a local bazaar each fall, as part of a six-week unit on entrepreneurialism. Students sell the products and use the proceeds to pay for materials all year. (Reichert’s class is also part of Harbor Freight EdCorps, a partnership between Harbor Freight Tools for Schools and Real World Scholars to help skilled trades classrooms create their own businesses.)

Students also compete in leadership and skill competitions at SkillsUSA—Reichert has coached 10 state champions over his teaching career. Last year, a team of his students won gold in community service at the state level and 15th place at the national level—the first time Reichert’s students had entered that competition. Service is a key part of Reichert’s class—his students remodeled their local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, raising $15,000 in grants to cover the cost.

Reichert was a finalist for the 2018 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. He has been named the Wyoming Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year and Arch Coal Teacher of the Year.

“I didn’t realize just how much more effective I had become as a teacher by marketing my program so hard, but I have had students coming up to me throughout the summer talking about how they’re looking forward to taking my classes or joining SkillsUSA. Several parents have also stopped me or messaged me numerous times already asking what they can do to help promote and build our program this fall, and that’s a great feeling!”