SkillsUSA Instructors Recognized by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Teaching Excellence Program

Published: October 25, 2019
LEESBURG, Va.—Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has awarded $650,000 in teaching excellence awards to 12 SkillsUSA instructors from across the country in the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. The prize, launched in 2017, is open to skilled trades teachers who are faculty members at U.S. public high schools. Eligible applicants are those who teach skilled trades classes that emphasize the expert use of tools and materials to build or repair products and structures, and which lead to high-demand and high-wage careers including in carpentry, construction, electrical, HVAC, manufacturing, plumbing, transportation and agriculture mechanics and welding. Excellence is defined as teachers who love their subject matter; who are highly knowledgeable and skilled; who implement a curriculum matched to a relevant career pathway; who encourage exploration and experimentation by students in a safe environment; and who connect students to new relationships and experiences outside the classroom. Over $1 million in prizes were awarded for 2019 including three first-place prize awards of $100,000, with $70,000 going to the public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 going to the eligible individual skilled trades teacher or teachers behind the winning application. Fifteen second-place winners were each awarded $50,000, with $35,000 to the public high school program and $15,000 to the eligible teacher or team of teachers. (Because of school, district or state policy regarding individual cash awards, the schools of three of the winners will receive the entire prize winnings.) “It is exciting to see so many SkillsUSA instructors recognized by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools this year. We salute these winners as positive examples for all of career and technical education,” said executive director Timothy Lawrence. “These SkillsUSA instructors have demonstrated both a passion for teaching and innovation in the classroom.” The 2019 winners include these SkillsUSA instructors: First Place ($100,000 each)
  • Cesar Gutierrez, Precision Machining, Desert View High School, Ariz.
  • Brent Trankler, Welding, Sikeston Career and Technology Center, Mo. 
Second Place ($50,000 each)
  • Ken Cox, Automotive Technology, Redwood High School, Calif.
  • Michael Campanile and Michael Schweinsberg, Welding and Masonry, Carroll County Career and Technology Center, Md.
  • Jodi Lancaster, Welding, Livingston Area Career Center, Ill.
  • Jacob Leair, Welding, Grants Pass High School, Ore.
  • David Lilly, Automotive Technology, Portsmouth High School, N.H.
  • Joel Massarello, Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northwest, Clarkston, Mich.
  • Troy Reichert, Industrial Technology, Guernsey-Sunrise Public High School, Wyo.
  • Peter Wachtel, Product Innovation and Architecture, Adolfo Camarillo High School, Calif.
  • Baxter Weed, Automotive Technology, Cold Hollow Career Center, Vt.

About SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit partnership of education and industry founded in 1965 to strengthen our 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 positions go unfilled. Through SkillsUSA’s championships program and curricula, employers have long ensured schools are teaching relevant technical skills, and with SkillsUSA’s new credentialing process, they can now assess how ready potential employees are for the job. SkillsUSA has more than 366,000 annual paid members nationwide in high schools, colleges and middle schools, covering over 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, and is recognized by the U.S. departments of Education and Labor as integral to career and technical education. With the addition of our alumni, membership last year was 427,432. We have served nearly 14 million members since 1965. For more information:

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, visit us at and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
SkillsUSA Contacts
Jane A. DeShong Short, Program Manager Public Relations/Communications Phone: 703-737-0612 Karen Kitzel, Associate Director Public Relations/Communications Phone: 703-737-0607

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Media Contacts

For more information about SkillsUSA, contact:

Jane A. DeShong Short

Senior Manager, Public Relations/Communications

Karen Kitzel

Associate Director, Communications

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