Construction Classes Among Finalists for High School Skilled Trade Programs

High School Teachers, Schools to Share $500,000

CALABASAS, Calif.- Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has announced the 10 finalists for the inaugural Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which will award more than $500,000 to skilled trades teachers and programs in American public high schools.

Construction programs drew major attention, landing in five of the ten finalist spots.

Drawn from across the country and representing skilled trades like construction, automotive, architecture, woodworking, manufacturing and marine systems technology, the 10 finalists are in the running for three first-place prizes of $100,000, with $70,000 going to the high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program.

The seven second-place winners will each be awarded $30,000, with $20,000 going to the high school program and $10,000 to the teacher/team.

The winners will be announced on Oct. 26.

Finalists in construction programs are:

• Gerald “Dave” Huffman and Patrick Wadsworth

Construction Technology, 
Gulfport High School
, Gulfport, Mississippi

Huffman teaches construction technology, and Wadsworth teaches English and technical writing. Their students work collaboratively on projects, melding technical and academic learning into a robust, real-world education.  Construction technology coursework prepares students for employment or continued education in the construction trades.

• Ed Hughes
Construction, Technology Education

Sheboygan Falls High School
, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin
Hughes teaches construction, computer-aided design, STEM and other trades. He guides his students through trades pathways, a robust internship program and robotics competitions. Hughes helped spearhead the creation of his school’s Innovation Design Center, a modern learning space dedicated to the trades and technology.

• Bob Kilmer
Construction & Architecture

Enumclaw High School, 
Enumclaw, Washington

Kilmer teaches woodworking, computer-aided design and architecture and construction, and he also serves as an instructional technology coach for the Enumclaw School District. Kilmer teaches his students to use their tools, skills, materials and processes to solve real-world problems, and this year they will build a tiny house for a local family in need.

• Cole Smith and Bill Hartman
, Construction, Woodworking

Rancho Cotate High School, 
Rohnert Park, California
Smith and Hartman lead woodworking and sustainable construction classes, teaching their students how to build an off-the-grid tiny house, from the computer designed blueprints to construction of the 153-square-foot structure, complete with a composting toilet, water filtration system and solar panels. The hands-on project teaches students carpentry, plumbing and roofing.

• Randy Williamson, 
Construction Trades

Williamsport Area High School Career and Technical Education
, Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Williamson guides his students in building a small-scale house, from generating computer-designed plans to constructing and installing the electrical and plumbing systems. Williamson cultivates strong relationships between his students and the local building association, and he taps regional industry advisors to ensure his program trains students in the most advanced and in-demand skills. Many of his students graduate industry-certified and able to land construction jobs after high school.”

Other finalists:

• Roxanne Montarro Amiot
, Automotive

Bullard-Havens Technical High School
Bridgeport, Connecticut
The first woman to graduate from Bullard-Havens in auto shop, Amiot worked in the automotive industry before returning to her high school to teach auto shop. She has taught in the Connecticut Technical High School System as an auto instructor for 29 years. Passionate about preparing her students for successful careers and providing skilled technicians to the industry, Amiot’s auto lab is a licensed repair facility, and students complete internships with local businesses and graduate with industry certifications.

• Brendan Malone
, Marine Systems Technology, 
Urban Assembly
New York Harbor School, 
Brooklyn, New York

The Marine Systems Technology program that Malone leads prepares students to work in a career building, maintaining and repairing boats. The only high school in the country authorized to administer the American Boat and Yacht Council’s Marine Systems Technician Certification Exam — a critical credential in the marine industry — Malone’s juniors and seniors are required to participate in marine field internships. This year, Malone’s class will partner with the South Street Seaport Museum in New York to restore a 1930s tugboat as part of their internship program.

• Scott Mayotte
, Automotive Technology

Concord Regional Technical Center
, Concord, New Hampshire
After nearly two decades as an automotive technician for Volkswagen, Mayotte turned to the classroom to teach automotive technology. His students graduate from a nationally certified program with valuable industry credentials and can earn college credit for their coursework. This fall, Mayotte established the “All Girls Garage” at his school to introduce more young women to the auto industry.

• Jonathan Schwartz
, Advanced Manufacturing

Colfax High School
, Colfax, California
A longtime math teacher, Schwartz took over his school’s shop when it was in danger of closing, after realizing that shop students understood math concepts better than calculus students. By combining woodshop, engineering and math into an advanced manufacturing curriculum, his students use software to design wood projects then build those projects with traditional shop tools, computer numerical control (CNC) equipment, 3-D printers and laser cutters.

• Robert David White
, Automotive Technology

Parkside High School
, Salisbury, Maryland

White has taught automotive technology in Wicomico County, Maryland, for 31 years and was recognized as National Instructor of the Year by Automotive Service Excellence/Automotive Youth Educational Systems in 2007 and 2011. White’s students maintain a fleet of 85 vehicles for the local board of education, and they annually diagnose and repair about 1,000 cars from the community.

“These 10 finalists are exceptional educators who combine hands-on knowledge and passion to open doors for their students to the skilled trades and to life,” said Robin Kramer, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “The talents of these public school teachers go unrecognized far too often, and we’re proud to shine a light on their important work in creating futures for their students and to support their can-do spirit.”

The need for skilled trades professionals in the U.S. is growing. Between now and 2024, there will be more than 1.5 million skilled trades job openings as Baby Boomers retire, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The prize competition drew nearly 700 applicants from 48 states, who were narrowed to 54 semi-finalists.

All learning modules are available online at harborfreighttoolsforschools.orgharbor freight tools for schools.

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