SkillsUSA Instructors Honored for Teaching Excellence

Published: October 06, 2022
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Jane Short or Karen Kitzel 703-777-8810 or

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Recognizes Outstanding CTE Educators

Leesburg, Va., Oct. 6, 2022 — The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was presented to 20 teachers across the United States this week, including 12 registered SkillsUSA instructors. The prize recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the teachers who inspire students to learn skills for life after graduation.

Teaching excellence is defined through the program as teachers who love their subject matter, have demonstrated knowledge and skill in their trade area, implement a relevant curriculum matched to a career pathway, encourage exploration and experimentation by students in a safe environment, and connect students to new relationships and experiences outside the classroom.

Over $1.25 million in prizes were awarded for this year, including five first-place prize awards of $100,000 to teachers and their programs. An additional 15 teachers and their programs were awarded $50,000. In most cases, 30% of the award is given to the teacher and 70% to their program. In cases where a school does not allow the instructor to receive individual prize money, the funds will go toward the program. The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence program began in 2017.

“It is exciting to see so many SkillsUSA instructors recognized by our partner Harbor Freight Tools for Schools,” said SkillsUSA Executive Director Chelle Travis. “We salute these winners as positive examples for all of career and technical education. These SkillsUSA instructors have demonstrated a passion for teaching and innovation in the classroom.”

The 2022 winners include these 12 registered SkillsUSA instructors:  

Grand Prize ($100,000)

  • Jason Blackwell, Industrial Maintenance, Escambia Career Readiness Center, Ala.
  • Jared Monroe, Automotive Technology, Columbia Area Career Center, Mo.
  • Kristie Jones, Construction and Carpentry, Franklin County Career and Technical Center, Miss.
  • Cory Torppa, Construction, Kalama High School, Wash.

($50,000 each)

  • Kevin Finan, Machining, Atlantic Technical College & Technical High School, Fla.
  • David Moye, Automotive Service Technology, Lyman High School, Fla.
  • Jeff Bearinger, Carpentry, Lumpkin County High School, Ga.
  • Andrice Tucker, Automotive Service Technology, Central Nine Career Center, Ind.
  • Aaron Ervin, Welding, Pike Lincoln Technical Center, Mo.
  • Joshua Bowles, Carpentry, Alexander Central High School, N.C.
  • John Stratton, Automotive Service Technology, Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, N.Y.
  • Blair Jensen, Welding, Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers-South Campus, Utah

Cash awards given to schools will support winning teachers’ skilled trades programs. Individual winnings can be used however the winner wishes.

The 2022 program drew more than 768 applications from 50 states and included three rounds of judging by an independent panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy and civic leadership. The application process included responses to questions and a series of learning modules that highlighted each teacher’s experience, insights and creative approach to teaching and their documented success in helping their students achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to drive a greater understanding of and investment in skilled trades education, believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs. Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. For more information, visit:

About SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit partnership of education and industry founded in 1965 to strengthen the nation’s skilled workforce. Driven by employer demand, SkillsUSA helps students develop necessary personal and workplace skills along with technical skills grounded in academics. This SkillsUSA Framework empowers every student to succeed at work and in life while helping to close the skills gap in which millions of skilled trades positions go unfilled. Through SkillsUSA’s Championships program and curricula, employers have long ensured schools are teaching relevant skills, and with SkillsUSA’s new credentialing process, they can now assess how ready potential employees are for the job. SkillsUSA has nearly 400,000 members nationwide in high schools, colleges and middle schools, covering over 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations. SkillsUSA is recognized by the U.S. departments of education and labor as integral to career and technical education. It has served nearly 14.2 million members since 1965. For more information, visit:


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