Dexter Shop Teacher Named National Finalist For Harbor Freight ‘Tools For Schools’ Award

A Dexter High School industrial technology teacher has been named a national finalist for a teaching award.

According to a news release from Harbor Freight Tools, Brian Kuntz is one of 50 finalists across the country for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools prize for Teaching Excellence.

“This year a record 768 applications were received from 50 states,” the press release said. “The 20 winners will be announced in October.”

In the prize application, Kuntz told Harbor Freight the importance of efficiency and safety.

“To me, my shop during school time is like a factory running at its peak production,” Kuntz wrote. “Either in the wood or metal shop, the machines drowning out the blasting radio is music to my ears. Sawdust in the air, sparks flying from a grinder, and projects getting built in the safest way possible. That is what it’s all about.”

According to Harbor Freight, a total of $1.25 million in cash prizes in October will be shared by 20 teachers and their skilled trades programs.

“We deeply appreciate the work skilled trades teachers do to prepare and inspire our next generation of tradespeople,” said Eric Smidt, founder of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “Their work is critical, because while our country’s need for building and repairs is growing, our skilled trades workforce is shrinking. High quality skilled trades teachers offer their students a pathway not just to a good job, but also to a meaningful career and a good life.”

With this year’s prize, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools will have awarded more than $6 million to more than 100 U.S. public high school teachers and their schools – supporting tens of thousands of students along the way, the press release said.

The finalists are from 33 states and were selected by an independent panel of judges with expertise in career and technical education. Applications are accepted from teachers in the following trades categories: agricultural mechanics, carpentry, construction, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, manufacturing, plumbing, transportation and welding.

The finalists are from the following 33 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Vermont and Utah.

“According to an independent evaluation conducted earlier this year by The FDR Group, there are significant impacts from winning the prize,” Harbor Freight stated. “More high school students want to enroll in skilled trades classes and local employers are more interested in developing partnerships after teachers are named winners of the prize. Winners are also more likely to become advocates for skilled traded education.”

Winners join a nationwide network of outstanding trades teachers who convene throughout the year including a four-day summer institute called “Let’s Build It” to share best practices and develop new ideas to advance high school skilled trades education.

The 2022 finalists now advance to a second round of competition, where they will be asked to respond to an online expert-led learning module designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about teaching practices.

The finalists will also be asked to submit a short video describing an aspect of their teaching that illustrates excellence. Two additional rounds of judging, each by separate independent panels of reviewers, will narrow the field to 20 winners and, finally, name the five grand prize winners and 15 prize winners.

The five grand prize winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the skilled trades teacher behind the winning program, the press release said.

The 15 additional winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher. Winners whose school, district and/or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize award were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. If they win, the entire share of the prize will be awarded to the school.

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, the company said.

“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: harborfreighttoolsforschools.org.”

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