Three high school skilled trades teachers from Pennsylvania are among 50 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who were named as finalists for the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. The teachers and their trades programs are in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards.
Thomas Ritchey, who teaches agriculture at Central High School, is one of those three finalists. Mr. Ritchey works to keep his classroom innovative, most recently by working with teachers across Pennsylvania to develop and share online resources for teaching agriculture and connect with local businesses to further expand that curriculum for his students. He regularly aligns his classes to local demand – teaching more welding as he observes the local market for welding jobs, for example, and encourages community service projects like building picnic tables and constructing calf kennels for farmers.
The finalists now advance to a second round of competition, where they will be asked to respond to online expert-led video learning modules designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about teaching practices. The contenders will be asked how ideas from the modules might be used to inspire students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades.
This 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. “Trades teachers are truly unsung heroes, and our prize seeks to show everyone how powerful these classes can be,” said Denny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.