SkillsUSA Instructors Recognized as Finalists for the 2023 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence

Published: July 26, 2023
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Jane Short or Karen Kitzel SkillsUSA 703-777-8810 or Leesburg, Va., July 26, 2023 — Twenty-four SkillsUSA instructors are among 50 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who are finalists for the 2023 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. Their high school trades programs are in the running for a share of $1.5 million in total cash awards. The SkillsUSA finalists include:
  • Alabama: Scott Larson, Construction, North Baldwin Center for Technology
  • Alaska: Steven Ratzlaff, Construction, James T. Hutchison High School
  • Arizona: Jeremy Tarbet, Automotive, Canyon del Oro High School
  • Colorado: Alexander Adkisson, Manufacturing and Construction, Green Mountain High School; and Glenn Harrison, Manufacturing, Dr. Martin Luther King Early College
  • Delaware: John Fitzgerald, Welding, Delcastle Technical High School
  • Georgia: Dave Darden, Automotive, Cedar Shoals High School
  • Illinois: Kenneth Adkins, Automotive and Welding, Maine East High School
  • Kansas: Don Murrell, Welding, Garden City High School
  • Kentucky: David McCoy, Welding, Pleasure Ridge Park High School
  • Massachusetts: Alex Bechtler, Manufacturing, Southeast Career Technical Academy
  • Michigan: Jeff Webb, Manufacturing, Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry; and Juwan Willis, Automotive, Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast
  • Nebraska: Garrett Zink, Industrial Technology, Cedar Bluffs High School
  • New Jersey: Rudolph Petrella, Automotive, West Orange High School
  • New York: Brian McDonnell, Automotive, GST BOCES Coopers Education Center
  • Ohio: Andy Buehler, Automotive, Upper Valley Career Center; Konner Keller, Manufacturing, Upper Valley Career Center; and Jason Werstler, Construction, Washington High School
  • Texas: John Alvarez, Plumbing, Construction Careers Academy; Dallas Bergstrom, Manufacturing, Arthur Miller Career & Technology Center
  • Utah: Jay Hales, Automotive, Riverton High School
  • Vermont: Karen Chitambar, Automotive, North Country Career Center
  • West Virginia: Hugh Roberts, Carpentry, Cabell County Career Technology Center
To see all the finalists, go to: The 2023 finalists advance to a second round of competition which will narrow the field to 25 winners who will split $1.5 million in prizes. Five of those teachers will be grand prize recipients who each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. The other 20 winners will each receive $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team. For finalists whose school, district and/or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual prize earnings, their entire prize will be awarded to the school. All winners will be announced in late October. The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer. The prize recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the teachers who inspire students to learn a trade that prepares them for life after graduation. Now in the seventh year, tens of thousands of students have benefitted from the prize awards and more than $7 million in cash awards have been given through the program.

About SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA is America’s proud champion of the skilled trades. It’s a student-led partnership of education and industry that’s building the skilled workforce our nation depends on with graduates who are career ready, day one. Representing nearly 380,000 career and technical education students and teachers, SkillsUSA chapters thrive in middle schools, high schools and college/postsecondary institutions nationwide. SkillsUSA’s mission empowers students to become skilled professionals, career-ready leaders and responsible community members. That mission is accomplished through the SkillsUSA Framework of Personal Skills, Workplace Skills and Technical Skills Grounded in Academics, which is integrated into the classroom curriculum. Through Framework instruction, students develop the character-shaping leadership skills — teamwork, communication, professionalism and more — that successful careers and lives demand. At the same time, students hone their high-level technical skills against current industry standards in more than 130 skilled trade areas, from 3-D Animation to Welding. The result? Focused, confident and highly skilled graduates who are ready to work, ready to lead and ready to make a difference in our schools, workplaces and communities. A vital solution to the skills gap, where more in-demand skilled trades positions are available than qualified professionals to fill them, SkillsUSA has served over 14 million difference-making members since 1965. To learn more, visit

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in public high schools across America. 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:

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