Adam Wallingford, a welding instructor at Mason County School, is among 50 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who have been named as semifinalists for the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. Wallingford is in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards.
Wallingford was chosen 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.
Wallingford started his teaching career in 2009 when he began training welding apprentices. Four years later, he joined the faculty at Mason County Area Technology Center, which is now Mason County Career Magnet School. His classroom employs project-based learning, encouraging students to develop deep content knowledge while also addressing real-world challenges. For example, students in Wallingford’s class researched and created a workplace safety plan for a local distribution center that is still used to train the center’s adult employees.
Wallingford also encourages students to pursue community service, such as creating basketball goals for a neighborhood park and sculptures for the Maysville Military Memorial Park in honor of veterans and fallen soldiers. Realizing that not all students have the family and friends network needed to find jobs, he helps students develop strong relationships with local industry through site visits, job shadowing, work-based learning and mentorships. All his students graduate with a 3G welding certification for road and bridge construction.
The semifinalists have advanced 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. Two rounds of judging will narrow the field to 18 finalists and later name the three first-place and 15 second-place winners, who will be announced Oct. 24.
The 18 winners will split $1 million in prizes. 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.