Jay Abitz from Freedom, Wisconsin and Staci Sievert from Seymour, Wisconsin were chosen as winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools prize for teaching excellence. Both were awarded $15,000 for themselves as well as $35,000 each for their respective programs.
Jay Abitz, an automotive and collision repair teacher who teaches at Freedom High School is one of 15 prize winners. Additionally, three grand prize winners together with their schools will receive $100,000 each.
“I love to show my students that cars can be a career or even a hobby. I love seeing the confidence in their abilities grow and the rewards they reap from a job well done,’’ Abitz wrote in his prize application. “Life and school is not about what they learn on any given day, but is all about the experiences! I do my best to prepare them for life after high school to be successful people and good employees.”
Staci Sievert, an industrial technology teacher from Seymour Community High School, has also been named a winner of the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
“I feel close to my dad when I’m in the shop. I enjoyed watching his work and problem-solving. I remember him often heading out to his shop and saying, ‘I wonder what mistakes I will make today.’ Problem-solving in the shop is a way of life,’’ Sievert wrote in her prize application. “I am invigorated by the challenge of teaching teenagers how to use and respect equipment while being hands-on, minds-on.’’
Staci Sievert Bio: https://harborfreighttoolsforschools.org/prize_person/staci-sievert/
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.
“High school skilled trades teachers and their programs are an essential part of addressing the skilled trades worker shortage,’’ said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “These dedicated educators make a huge difference in the lives of young people every day, setting them on a course for a meaningful career and to make a difference in their community.’’
The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was launched in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools, to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools.
"Among the key things we came to appreciate during the pandemic is the value of hands-on learning and the incredible resilience and commitment of our teachers,’’ Smidt said. ``We are grateful that these outstanding prize winners and thousands of educators like them across the country are developing tomorrow’s skilled workforce.’’
Overall, there are winners from 14 states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
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 individual skilled trades teacher behind the winning program. The 15 additional prize winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher. Due to school, district or state policy regarding individual cash awards, the schools of two of the winners will receive the entire prize winnings.
The 2021 prize drew more than 700 applications from 49 states and included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy and civic leadership. The application process, which included responses to questions and a series of learning modules, was designed to solicit each teacher’s experience, insights and creative ideas about their approach to teaching and success in helping their students achieve excellence in the skilled trades.
In July, the field was narrowed to 61 finalists. The high school skilled trades programs of the 43 finalists who were not named winners today will each receive a $1,000 gift card from Harbor Freight Tools.
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 public high schools across America. 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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