David McCoy, a high school welding teacher at Pleasure Ridge Park High School (Jefferson County Public Schools), has been named a winner of the 2023 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. The prize comes with $50,000 for his school’s welding program.
McCoy is one of 25 public high school skilled trades teachers across the United States who were surprised Oct. 3 with the news that they had won. A total of $1.5 million in cash prizes were awarded.
The winners teach a variety of skilled trades, including construction, carpentry, plumbing, welding, automotive repair, agricultural mechanics, advanced manufacturing and industrial technology.
“Our students would say their greatest skill learned from our program is communication and work ethic. Those skills have allowed them to maintain a good relationship with their employers and be dependable employees,” McCoy wrote in his prize application. “Our program is successful today because of our reputation. I have former students hiring our students and supervising them. I have students that constantly visit to talk to students about the importance of listening to the advice given to them in this program that will make their futures more successful. Our program literally sets our students up for life.”
The prize, now in its seventh year, was created to recognize excellent high school skilled trades teachers, a group of educators who are frequently overlooked and underappreciated. Since 2017, the program has awarded more than $7 million to more than 130 teachers and their schools’ programs. The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase understanding, support and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools.
This year there are winners from 17 states, including: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah. A full list of winners is available on the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools website.
“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.”
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.”
This year there were more than 1,000 applications for the prize, a 31 percent increase from 2022. The application process included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from education, industry, nonprofits and philanthropy.
The 25 winners and their programs will receive a total of $1.5 million in cash prizes as follows:
Five Grand Prize Winners
Amount: $100,000 each
($70,000 for their school’s skilled trades program and $30,000 for the teacher)
Twenty Prize Winners
Amount: $50,000 each
($35,000 for their school’s skilled trades program and $15,000 for the teacher)
In some cases, due to school, district or state policy, the schools’ skilled trades programs will receive the entire prize amount. In McCoy’s case all of the prize winnings will go to the school’s welding program.
About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools. 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 the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools website.