WI High School Skilled Trades Teacher Semifinalist up for $1M in Prizes

A Wisconsin high school skilled trades teacher is among the 52 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who were named today as semifinalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence and are in the running for a share of $1 million in cash prizes.

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CALABASAS, CA.— A Wisconsin high school skilled trades teacher is among the 52 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who were named today as semifinalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence and are in the running for a share of $1 million in cash prizes.

David Kontz, a welding, manufacturing and HVAC teacher at the Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education in Milwaukee, was chosen from among a field of more than 500 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The semifinalists — some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams — hail from 27 states and specialize in trades ranging from construction and carpentry to automotive repair, welding, advanced manufacturing and agriculture mechanics.

Through two more rounds of judging, the field of 52 semi-finalists will be narrowed to 18 first- and second-place winners, who will split $1 million in total cash awards. The three first-place 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 second-place 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. Semi-finalists whose school, district or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings were eligible to apply on behalf of their school's skilled trades program. The first- and second-place winners are expected to be announced on Nov. 15.

“These semifinalists represent amazing depth and breadth in high school skilled trades education, and they exhibit incredible enthusiasm for teaching students to work with their hands, to love learning and be prepared for the future,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “We are thrilled to recognize their exceptional teaching and to raise the profile of their excellent work through these awards.”

Kontz has been teaching skilled trades courses in welding, manufacturing, and HVAC for 42 years. He has been a high school teacher for more than 30 years and spent a decade as a project manager and instructor at Johnson Controls Inc. At Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education, Kontz combines credential-based learning with on-the-job learning experiences. His students learn welding and how to program robots, and they work on programmable logic controllers for manufacturing. His HVAC class focuses on energy conservation by using a whole building approach to ensure integration and optimization across the entire design and build process. Kontz has coached his students to top honors in state and national technical education competitions.

The full list of the 52 semifinalists is posted here.

For the second round application for the prize, semifinalists will respond to a series of online expert-led video learning modules designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about their teaching practices and how to inspire their students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

Each round of winners is selected by separate panels of judges independent of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

This is the second year of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which was started by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in American public high schools.

“Skilled trades teachers are unsung heroes,” Smidt said. “They teach our students skills that help them in life and in careers. We respect and value the men and women who work with their hands to design, build and repair homes, schools, hospitals and businesses in our towns and cities, as well as our cars, trucks and tractors.  These skilled and creative workers keep our communities thriving.  At the same time, there are now hundreds of thousands of great skilled trades job openings, and that number is expected to grow.  We want to elevate the dignity and importance of this work by recognizing exceptional skilled trades teachers from our country’s public schools who open the door to learning and opportunity.”

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