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

Published: October 13, 2023
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Leesburg, Va., Oct. 13, 2023SkillsUSA instructors are among 25 outstanding teachers and teacher teams from 17 states who are winners for the 2023 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. In total, these educators shared $1.5 million in cash awards.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Eric Smidt, owner and founder of Harbor Freight Tools. “We are thrilled to announce our newest group of 25 prizewinning teachers,” Smidt said. “They’ll join the more than 100 teachers across America who are now part of a tight network of outstanding teachers who are working together to lift up excellent skilled trades education. We hope this recognition and support will serve as a catalyst for greater investment in this critical sector.”

Four SkillsUSA instructors won a $100,000 Grand Prize ($70,000 for their school’s skilled trades program and $30,000 for the teacher):

  • Alabama — Scott Larson, Construction, North Baldwin Center for Technology
  • Colorado — Alexander Adkisson, Manufacturing and Construction, Green Mountain High School
  • Ohio — Andy Buehler, Automotive, Upper Valley Career Center
  • Michigan — Juwan Willis, Automotive, Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast

Additional prize winners of $50,000 each ($35,000 for their school’s skilled trades program and $15,000 for the teacher) included these SkillsUSA instructors:

  • Alaska — Steven Ratzlaff, Construction, James T. Hutchison High School
  • Arizona — Jeremy Tarbet, Automotive, Canyon del Oro High School
  • Colorado — Glenn Harrison, Manufacturing, Dr. Martin Luther King Early College
  • Kansas — Don Murrell, Welding, Garden City High School
  • Kentucky — David McCoy, Welding, Pleasure Ridge Park High School
  • Michigan — Jeff Webb, Manufacturing, Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry
  • New York — Brian McDonnell, Automotive, GST BOCES Coopers Education Center
  • Ohio — Konner Keller, Manufacturing, Upper Valley Career Center; and Jason Werstler, Construction, Washington High School
  • Texas — John Alvarez, Plumbing, Construction Careers Academy; and Dallas Bergstrom, Manufacturing, Arthur Miller Career & Technology Center
  • Utah — Jay Hales, Automotive, Riverton High School

Note: In some cases, due to school, district or state policy, the school’s skilled trades programs will receive the entire prize winnings. See the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools winners list.

“There is a growing shortage of skilled trades professionals in the United States,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “These incredible teachers are educating the next generation of skilled tradespeople through inventive, hands-on programs. We are grateful for the work they do every day in classrooms across the country.” This year there were more than 1,000 applications for the prize, a 31% increase from 2022. The application process included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from education, industry, nonprofits and philanthropy.

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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