Three Missouri high school skilled trades teachers are among 50 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who were named today as semifinalists for the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. They and their skilled trades programs are in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards.
Coley Hanes, who teaches agriculture construction and small engines at Schuyler R-1 Schools in Queen City, Jared Monroe, who teaches automotive technology at Columbia Area Career Center (CACC), and Brent Trankler, who teaches welding at Sikeston Career and Technology Center (SCTC) in Sikeston, were chosen by an independent panel of judges from among a field of 749 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The semifinalists—some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams—hail from 26 states and specialize in trades including manufacturing, welding, construction, automotive and agriculture mechanics.
“We never cease to be amazed by the talent, creativity, and resourcefulness of skilled trades educators,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “This year’s semifinalists teach more than a dozen trades and have spent a collective 800 years in the classroom—teaching our students critical skills that our country needs—and we couldn’t be more excited to honor their work.”
A love of agriculture runs deep for Coley Hanes, who grew up on a diversified family farm in southern Iowa before becoming a teacher at Schuyler R-1 Schools. A third-year educator, Hanes emphasizes student-driven, project-based learning in his classroom, which incorporates electrification, plumbing, engine mechanics and welding. His students have a record of success, passing certifications, pursuing technical college degrees and starting well-paying careers, crucial in Schuyler County, where the average income is well below the poverty line. Before becoming a trades teacher, Hanes taught middle school social studies. He has also served as a groundskeeper at Truman State University and a seasonal employee of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources, where he created hiking trails across the state.
Students in Jared Monroe’s automotive classes at CACC operate a live shop, serving local customers, and they also participate in apprenticeship programs while continuing their high school coursework. A specialist in electrical diagnosis and computer programming and an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Master Certified Technician A1-A9, Monroe demonstrates to his students that becoming a successful automotive technician requires far more than just “getting dirty.” Monroe also draws from his background working at Sears, U-Haul, Chrysler, GM and several independent shops. In the spring of 2019, all of Monroe’s students passed all their entry-level ASE certifications.
Brent Trankler, a U.S. Army veteran, has taught welding at SCTC since 2009. A model of lifelong learning for his students, Trankler has earned two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees, along with becoming a National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) Welding Technology Subject Matter Expert. Trankler boosts his students’ confidence and pushes their limits by taking on large projects and allowing them to experiment, problem-solve and learn from mistakes. Each year, his students volunteer to help approximately 250 Boy Scouts earn their welding and metal works badges. Upon graduation, almost all Trankler’s students pursue post-secondary education or receive job offers from businesses like Manac—the largest manufacturer of custom-built and specialty semitrailers in North America. Trankler was a semifinalist for the 2018 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
The full list of the 50 semifinalists is posted here.
The 2019 semifinalists now advance to the 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. Two rounds of judging, each by separate independent panels of reviewers, will narrow the field to 18 finalists and, finally, name the three first-place and 15 second-place winners. Winners will be announced on Oct. 24.
The 18 winners will split $1 million in prizes. First-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. Second-place winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team. Past winners have dedicated their winnings to modernizing their shops, investing in specialized tools, promoting their programs to families and purchasing equipment to prepare students for higher-level accreditations. Semifinalists whose school, district or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. If they win, the entire prize will be awarded to the school.
The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools. 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 third year of the prize, more than 150 teachers have been recognized as winners or semifinalists. Winners are invited to attend an annual convening to share best practices for advancing excellence in skilled trades education.
“Skilled trades teachers help hundreds of thousands of students each year experience the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from learning a trade,” Smidt said. “These teachers, their students and skilled tradespeople everywhere, too often don’t receive the respect and gratitude they deserve. Without them, construction would halt, homes, cars and appliances would fall into disrepair, and our infrastructure would crumble. We are thrilled to be able to honor and elevate the importance of their work.”