The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence is personal to founder Eric Smidt.
"I never thought I'd be involved with an education prize because I struggled in high school and I didn't go to college," he said in a press release. "But there was one class that I really loved... a shop class with a terrific teacher, and it was great to learn a skill."
When Smidt was 17, he started Harbor Freight Tools with his dad. As Harbor Freight was growing, high schools across America were dramatically reducing and even eliminating their skilled trades classes, Smidt said.
"I started Harbor Freight Tools for Schools as a non-profit program to strengthen and bring back those classes to give students a path to a skilled trade and a good paying career," Smidt said. "The first annual Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence is part of that program, recently awarding over $500,000 to outstanding skilled trades teachers and their American public high schools."
The three first-place teachers and their schools have each received $100,000: $70,000 to the school and $30,000 to the teacher.
- Bob Kilmer teaches woodworking, computer-aided design and architecture and construction at Enumclaw High School in Washington. His students are designing and building a tiny house for a local family in need.
- Brendan Malone teaches marine systems technology at Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governors Island. His program teaches his students to build, maintain and repair boats, and his school is the only high school in the country that can credential students for a career in the marine industry.
- Jonathan Schwartz teaches advanced manufacturing and woodworking at Colfax High School in Northern California. His students use software to design wood projects and then build them with traditional shop tools, CNC equipment, 3D printers and laser cutters.
The seven second-place winners have each received $30,000, with $20,000 to the schools and $10,000 to the teachers. Additionally, Harbor Freight Tools provided a $1,000 gift card to each of the 44 prize semifinalists to support their skilled trades programs.