Middleton High’s construction teacher, Kyle Thompson, is one of 50 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who were named as finalists for the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. The teachers and their trades programs are now in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards!
“It’s a great honor to have been selected as one of the finalists,” said Thompson. “Being selected as a finalist is evidence of the students’ dedication and commitment to becoming a nationally recognized program that transitions students from high school into careers in skilled trades.”
Thompson was chosen by an independent panel of judges from a field of more than 600 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The finalists—some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams—hail from 23 states and specialize in trades including manufacturing, welding, construction, automotive, agriculture mechanics and technical theater.
“Trades teachers are truly unsung heroes, and our prize seeks to show everyone how powerful these classes can be,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “Skilled trades education has enormous potential to offer students pathways to multiple postsecondary opportunities, and these are the teachers who are providing them with the knowledge, skills and inspiration year after year.”
Thompson has been teaching construction at Middleton High School for the last eight years. He was initially inspired to work in the trades by his grandfather, a union carpenter who taught him how to work with tools at a young age. Thompson carries this passion into the classroom, where his students work through a practical curriculum that prepares them for future careers in the industry.
All of Thompson’s students complete an Occupational Safety and Health Administration 30-hour certification in construction, and work on a variety of independent and group projects so they can better understand how a jobsite functions. Last year, nine of 33 of Thompson’s graduating seniors secured placement in the construction industry and have found success and pay raises thanks to certifications earned in Thompson’s classes.
The 2020 finalists now advance 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 18 winners will split $1 million in prizes. 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 or teacher team behind the winning program. 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 or team.
All winners will be announced in late October.
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.